The Geshe Tsulga

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for Sera Je House #2A Monks and Affiliates, inc.

A Short Biography of Venerable Geshe Tsulga

Venerable Geshe Tsulga was born to a nomad family on 8 May 1939 in the mountainous region of Kham, Tibet. He was one of ten children. The family shared a tent with their yaks and horses, and moved with the seasons from their base at 17,000 feet. 
At the age of seven, Geshe-la applied to Dhargye Gompa, one of Kham’s main teaching monasteries. At the age of eleven he entered Dhargye Gompa, becoming the first nomad to do so. His family settled nearby in Rango, at 13,500 feet. The remains of his boyhood home still stand in the fields today.
At Dhargye Gompa, Geshe-la studied grammar, the main philosophical texts, and debate and received transmissions, commentaries, and initiations. In 1957, he received the transmission of the Lam-rim Chen-mo from Geshe Jampa Khedrub, a transmission he would give back to Dhargye Gompa in 2006 and to his students at Kurukulla Center in 2007.
As was the custom at the time, when he turned 17, Geshe-la traveled by foot to Lhasa to continue his education at the Sera-Jey division of Sera Monastery, one of the great Gelug monastic universities of Tibet. After leaving Dhargye Gompa he would not see most of his family, friends, or fellow monks again.
Two years later, in 1959, the Chinese invaded Tibet. The monks at Sera were told to hide in the mountains for three days, then return; they left with just the clothes on their backs. Three days later Geshe-la's group received a note to follow His Holiness to India; those who did not and returned to Sera were imprisoned, tortured, or killed
Young Tsultrim Chopel arriving in India
For four months, under the cover of night, Geshe-la traveled barefoot over glacier-covered mountains and rocky passes. It was so dark and icy that many monks fell to their death. He was chased and shot at by Chinese soldiers on horseback. Food was scarce. Half of his traveling party were captured, killed or died from the elements. But Geshe-la survived, arriving in India with no skin on the soles of his feet, but alive. 
When he arrived in India, he was housed in the former prisoner of war camp in Buxaduar, West Bengal. There, many of those who survived their escape from Tibet died from typhoid, malaria, and other tropical diseases. A few years later Geshe-la and about 120 monks were offered two hundred acres of jungle land in southern India. For three years they cleared the land by hand and gradually rebuilt Sera Monastery. Here, too, life was hard in the heat and humidity of India, with nothing to eat but fruit from the trees. Geshe-la witnessed the death of many great scholars from tuberculosis and other diseases endemic to the area.
Despite this hardship and adversity, Geshe-la continued his studies and in 1989 became a lharampa geshe, the highest achievement a monastic can attain. Geshe-la graduated top of his class in each of the disciplines within this degree.
At the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Venerable Geshe Tsulga came to America to help establish the Dharma in the West.

Venerable Geshe Tsulga
A Single Day in a Lifetime of Practice
Sera, Buddha, Dharma
Geshe La at Mt Washington

To see the full video documenting Geshe Tsulga's life click the image or on the link below.
A few thoughts from Bill Judge
William Judge, Geshe Tsulga
My last time with him in India 2010

Geshe Tsulga was my friend and my Teacher. With patience he introduced me to an entirely new world which I knew nothing about. He opened my eyes to what true kindness and compassion really is, as well as the truth of suffering.  These precious jewels of Dharma were a gift immeasurable.  The only way I could come close to repaying his kindness is to keep his teaching in my heart.

We traveled many miles together since his arrival in the United States in 1992. We are taught that it is wise to thoroughly check out a teacher before receiving teachings. Through all the years and miles together I can attest to the depth of his compassion and devotion to the Dharma. He lived every word he taught and his love for all beings is immeasurable.


In our journeys he spoke of his life on the high plains of Tibet and the brutal invasion of the Chinese which lead to his harrowing escape over the Himalayan mountain. He told of having to crawl over the bodies of other monks and dodging bullets as he fled the monastery. In his months long journey, he and his fellow travelers were hunted and shot at all while enduring the harsh elements of the Himal. The suffering did not end there. India was a cruel tropical environment to the people of the high plains and many of Tibet’s great teachers succumbed to tropical disease. Through all of this suffering at the hands of the Chinese he always had a prayer of compassion for them. Geshe La endured to bring the wondrous Dharma to us here in the west. A most precious gift. – William Judge