The Geshe Tsulga
Non-Profit Corporation


Geshe Tsultrim Chöphel

 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-je 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 returned to Sera and were imprisoned, tortured, or killed.
 
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 or 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.Geshe-la maintains a house at Sera-je.