As a resident teacher at the Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa since March 2012, Geshe Jampa Gelek is the current teacher of the FPMT Residential Master’s Program studies. He received the Lharam degree graduating first in his class in 2001 having completed the entire monastic education at Sera Je monastery, South India. His class was considered exceptional, including fellow student Dagri Rinpoche.
Geshe Gelek comes from the eastern part of Tibet, from Kham. He was born in 1966, one of 10 children. His family was very poor and he only had time to learn to read and write because he had to look after the animals. His mother wanted him to be a monk and took him to Lhasa, to Sera Monastery and the Chinese authorities gave him permission but there were lots of permissions required and regulations to fulfil. Due to these difficulties and following the advice of an older monk from the local monastery near his home, he decided to go to India so he could study freely.
His first attempt to go to India failed and he was stopped at the border. For his second attempt he went via Mt Kailash and entered Nepal. He was one of the first Tibetan refugees to arrive in Nepal in the 1980s. A year later he arrived in Sera Monastery in India and two months after that took ordination with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. This was 1983.
“When I first arrived at Sera, since there was a cultural difference and the climate in south India is completely different to that in Tibet, we had many problems…many physical problems. And in fact, I developed a kind of allergy and my face was covered with pimples but despite having these problems, I was always very happy. Because, if someone wants to practise Dharma, Sera is the best place because you have an opportunity to study and practise continuously. When we were young in Tibet, even though we were at home, we were very afraid and we had many dangers. While, when we arrived in India there was democracy, we had freedom of speech and so these fears disappeared.”