Geshe Thubten Samdup
Geshe Thubten Samdup, more well known as Gomde Lharampa, is a former monk of Sera Je monastic university, one of the largest monastic universities of Tibet. In 1972, he joined Sera-je monastery in South India. After studying intensively and diligently for twenty one years, in 1993, he achieved the highest degree given by the Gelugpa Tradition, the degree of Geshe Lharampa (an equivalent of PhD in Buddhism). This was followed by Tantric studies at the Gyuto Tantric College in Bomdila, East India.
In 1992, the first most arduous, strict, and demanding Geshe Lharampa examination took place in Mundgod, South India for twelve days, that was the most challenging Geshe examination ever held in exile. Eight scholars among the twenty, who took part in the exam had failed and could not become Geshe Lharamapa. But Geshe-la and his classmate Geshe Lobsang Choedhar from Sera-Je both successfully passed the exam.This exam was advised and endorsed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama because of many complaints he received over the years from the West expressing their dissatisfaction and disappointment towards the Tibetan Lamas, Geshes, and teachers in the West who are not qualified and was requested to have stricter rules to acquire these titles.
In 1994, he was officially elected as one of the two teachers for Sera-Je debate classes.
In 1995, the Spiritual Director of the FPMT organization, the great Yogi, Lama Zopa Rinpoche invited Geshe-la to teach at Vajrapani Institute and two other centres in the United States, where he taught for three years and then eventually moved to Canada. His unique teaching style with great clarity and simplicity makes students feel hopeful; even with the most complex subject, it would seem easy and comprehensible. He has been teaching Dharma for almost thirty-four years and has many students at the monastery, in Tibetan lay communities and in the West. Many of his students at Sera have become Geshes and even many Lharampas.
He has taught all the five classical Buddhist texts at the monastery: Pramanavartika, the Logic; Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom; Madhyamaka, the Middle Way; Abhidharmakosha, the Treasury of Knowledge; and Vinaya, the monk’s discipline. He has also taught Generation and Completion Stage of Guhyasamaja Tantra, the Highest Yoga Tantra to the Tibetan and Western students. He also has given many talks and lectures in schools and colleges in the United States.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is very fond of Geshe-la because of his tireless contribution in preserving Tibetan culture, devotion to his teachers, great humility, and his knowledge and expertise in Dharma. In fact, His Holiness has invited Geshe-la four times: in 1988 (Varanasi, India), 2004 (Toronto, Canada), 2009 (Vancouver, Canada), and 2010 (Toronto, Canada), without even him having to request. In fact, there are a very few people who have had such privilege.
Geshe-la is closely connected to His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa Rinpoche, who invited him three consecutive days in 2014 in Bodhgaya, India to discuss Dharma and even asked Geshe-la to co-author a Kagyu Dharma Dictionary, but because of the time constraint, it could not be materialized.
On October 29, 2009, during the Dalai Lama’s visit to Vancouver, he directly appointed Geshe-la as a spiritual teacher to the Tibetan community (TCCC Tibetan Canadian Cultural Center), Gangjong Choedenling in Toronto, Canada where he taught tirelessly from January 2, 2010, to October 8, 2017, almost eight years. There are recordings of 365 teaching videos and 475 audios during these eight years. Only 60 plus were able to be uploaded to youtube. Some of the teaching videos such as Tara and Heart Sutra commentaries have become very popular amongst the Tibetan communities all over the world.
In 2016, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has strongly encouraged Geshe-la to have dialogues and interchange ideas and information on philosophy, psychology, and cosmology, etc., with scientists, university professors, doctors, healthcare professionals and students for the mutual benefit and promotion of secular ethics or the universal education to help the whole humanity without having any hidden agenda of proselytization. Presently, he is teaching at Lama Yeshe Ling at the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Geshe-la also is passionate about meditation, and retreats: He has done Yamantaka retreat with over one million (1,000,000) mantra recitations,White Tara retreat 400,000, Guhyasamaja retreat 243, 400 (continued), Vajrayogini retreat 100,000, Lama Tsongkhapa retreat 100,000, Vajrasattva retreat 100,000, Hayagriva retreat 200,000.
He has authored many books and his writings include:
1. An encyclopedic Dharma dictionary called The Great Gomde Dictionary, which has 4 volumes (2,574 pages) published in 2013 by Sera-Je monastery. This dictionary has received great recognition from Tibetan scholars and high Lamas including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Gyalwang Karmapa Rinpoche, as well as the Western translators. The second edition is ready to be published and will have 8 volumes (5,036 pages), presumably the largest Dharma dictionary in the world.
2. The Great Tantric Dictionary, 4 volumes (2,111 pages).
3. Vinaya (monk’s discipline) Dictionary, 1 volume (550 pages).
4. A collection of stories from Sutras (289 pages).
5. A commentary on the Guhyasamaja Completion Stage (129).
6. A commentary on the Guhyasmaja Generation Stage (123 pages).
7. A Guhyasamaja Ritual Text (53).
8. A commentary on the Four Empowerments (46).
9. A commentary on the Madhyamaka Philosophical View (105 pages).
10. An Annotation on Entering the Middle Way (133).
11. A commentary on the Mandala Offering (35 pages).
12. Two commentaries on the Heart Sutra (68 pages).
13. About Mind and Mental Factors (51 pages).
14. A commentary on Praise to Twenty one Taras (68).
15. A commentary on Confession to the 35 Buddhas (53 pages).
16. Buddha’s Biography (40 pages).
17. A commentary on Praise to Avalokiteshvara by the 7th Dalai Lama (54 pages).
18. A dictionary for young people (30 pages).
19. A commentary on Dalai Lama’s Long Life Prayer (37).
20. A commentary on The King of Prayer.
21. A commentary on Tibetan national anthem and numerous short writings and poems