Introduction of guiding Lama

Khenpo Sonam Dhondup

Brief Biography

Khenpo Sonam Dhondup

一 、Family Background and Previous Life

I was born on July 1st 1977 in Tibet, the land encircled by snow mountains, with the three parts of Ngari in the upper region, the four wings of U-tsang forming the central region, and the six hills and three areas of Do-Kham in the lower region. I was born in the midst of a very small tribe of herdsmen, in an area called Amdo Ngawa, where the sun and moon mirror each other and the temperature gets colder in the lower part, located in the lower region, Do-Kham, where steeds are raised. The living conditions there are not good, but the people work hard, are well-mannered, have lives full of happiness, have respect for elders, and are kind to the young. In general, it is a group that lives dutifully.

The family lineage into which I was born is called Nesang. My father is called Jikhor and my mother, Nekhor. I used to be the third oldest of ten brothers, but two of my older brothers died of unknown causes when they were young. It is customary for Tibetan families with newborn children to go to a monastery to request the taking of refuge and blessings. Accordingly, my parents took me to a monastery to take refuge and receive blessings. At the monastery, one of the lamas said, “This child is my mother’s reincarnation. Please allow me to have this child.” It is Tibetan custom, however, for the eldest child to stay home and take on the family business, so my parents did not originally have the wish for me to become ordained.

There is another version of the events described above. In that version, the family into which I was born had a relative named Lama Beh Jesang. He had a thorough understanding of his practice and vows, and he kept them very pure. During the Cultural Revolution, he escaped to a secret and hidden part of a forest, spending the rest of his life meditation up until he passed away. It is said that I am this relative’s reincarnation.

However, I do not like the title of “Tulku” . The main thing is that belief in the Dharma with pure mind is helpful to ordinary people. A so-called “guru/lama” or “Tulku” is not as important as that main point. Thus, regardless of whether I have fame or not, my entire mind is concerned only with whether I can help the average person who has faith in the Dharma.

二、Educational and Teaching Experience

Even though I had my parents’ kind and loving care from birth until adulthood, I left my parents at the tender age of six, heading for the quiet mountains to devote myself to numerous spiritual friends, learning all the prayer rituals. Upon turning nine, it seemed to me that that period of 9 years was just like an entire lifetime.  Because I left my parents when I was just a child, I felt unbearable suffering and sadness from deeply missing my parents. This would be very difficult to bear for anyone. I had a painstaking learning experience. It was through unrelenting persistence that I completed my studies. I would wake up extremely early and only turn in when it got very late. I would wake up when it wasn’t light out yet around 3-4 in the morning and recite sutras until 9 in the morning. After drinking my morning tea in a hurried fashion at 9 o’clock, I would have to go greet my teacher and undergo an oral examination. After the exam and before 1 in the afternoon, I would have to learn other recitations. It was in those 9 years, under the kind protection of my lama that I learned the sadhana of the foundation of the auspicious Sakya tradition’s wisdom methods, how to draw mandalas, how to make tormas, the long-life puja for ridding negative conditions and obstacles, divination, etc. I learned all this by the time I turned fifteen. Afterwards, I received the complete teachings of oral transmissions and initiations from Lama Ngawang Chuetang; the main ones are the following: Collection of Practices, Guhyasamaja, Heruka, Vajrayogini, Vajrapani, Amitayus, Akshobhya, Vajrakilaya, Yamantaka, etc. As my lamas predicted, my personal deity is the red Hayagriva, the wrathful emanation of Avalokiteshvara. In my own practice, just seeing Hayagriva’s mandala and hearing related teachings cause faith and pure vision to arise spontaneously in my mind, thus confirming that this excellent deity is indeed my personal deity. In general, after receiving an oral transmission of a deity initiation, one should begin that particular deity’s practice. Therefore, I went on a retreat for 3 years, mainly meditating on the wrathful form of Avalokiteshvara, the red Hayagriva, along with doing some other deity practices. Following that, when I was eighteen, the light of the Dharma was degenerating in the Do-Kham area in those troubled times. In order to revitalize the Dharma, H.E. Chogye Rinpoche, the head of the Tsharpa subsect of the auspicious Sakya school, bestowed the teaching of the Path and its Fruit along with other teachings. As a result, I received a pitcher completely full with the water of the Dharma essence, planting the seed of understanding liberation, causing my heart to be especially joyful. Not only that, but I also had the good fortune of receiving many tantric teachings.


According to the customs of my hometown, the Chöd sadhana should be recited when someone passes away. Back then, there was an elderly person who asked me to recite the Chöd sadhana, so I went to pay respects to a Gelugpa lama named Se Gesang. After receiving the Chöd teachings from him, I spent 6 months travelling to Qumi and over 100 other places. Qumi is a spacious place with no people, full of rocky mountains and forests, etc. Generally, someone who realizes the actual nature of things understands that all phenomena do not exist independently, that emptiness transcends thoughts. An ordinary person like me, however, has thoughts constantly circling their mind. Although I’ve heard of such beings as gods and ghosts, because there is nothing I seek from them, I don’t really pay much attention to such matters. I went to Qumi, because many elderly people in the village wished to have beneficial burials. Thus, I spent 6 months travelling the barren wilderness. After that, I returned to my home village. In the end, perhaps due to karma, I did not have the causes and conditions to remain in my hometown. Instead, I began the life of traversing foreign lands. As such, I have not fulfilled the wishes of the elderly. For that I give over 100 deepest apologies.


After leaving home, I went to a well-known Tibetan hospital in a place called Zuoge, devoting myself to a teacher there named Akudankuo, learning medicine from him for 6 months. I then heard that there was a Tibetan Hospital at Tibet’s capital, which Tibetans also call the Sunshine City of Lhasa, and I made up my mind to study there. Therefore, I went to the great master Jampa Chilie at that Tibetan Hospital. I expressed in detail how I came from the far land of Domai to Lhasa with the wish to learn from Chilie. My teacher, Chilie, gave permission to study at the Tibetan Hospital with great kindness. Later on, however, I received a call from my hometown. Because my father missed me too much, he exaggerated the state of my mother’s illness and asked me to return home immediately. Due to this obstacle and bad turn of events, I could not actualize my wish and goal to learn medicine. For me, this is one of those regrets of a lifetime that can never be forgotten. In my opinion, it is extremely important for us as human beings to be able to benefit other sentient beings. Therefore, losing such a good opportunity to do so due to this unfortunate turn of events is just like it is described in the Dharma, “One’s hometown serves as Mara’s prison; one’s parents serve as Mara’s noose.”


There is a saying that goes like this: For a practitioner, it is best to leave one’s hometown for 3 years, if not that, then 3 months or at the very least, 7 days. I realized the necessity of going far away from my hometown and went to the holy land of India in 1999, entering Sakya Thubten Namgal Ling (Sakya Institute), located in Dehradun. I completed the studies of the 18 uncommon sutras and commentaries between the years 2000 and 2009, during which I also held various responsibilities at the institute, doing my best to serve the sangha. After graduating from the institute, according to H.H. the Sakya Trizin’s wishes, I went to Manjushri Buddhist Center in Taiwan. Having served the center for 2 years, I returned to India in 2012. H.H. the Sakya Trizin actually had other aims and intentions when he asked me to go to Taiwan. I was unable to accomplish much of importance during my 2 years there, though. For that, I feel much regret.


Afterwards, in effort to do what little I could to aid H.H. the Sakya Trizin and His the most reverend sons with their endeavors and to help the Sakyapa spread Dharma, I established a new center called Padma Light and Bliss with the enthusiastic help of many Taiwanese disciples the next time I went to Taiwan. Group practices are held at the center 3 times a week.

三 、Dharma Activities

I did my best to complete what H.H. the Sakya Trizin and His the most reverend sons instructed, and I took the responsibility of funding the construction of a new meditation hall for Tsechen Damchos Ling Monastery. The construction is currently in process. Not only that, but I also took responsibility for funding all expenses for food and drink of all the monastics at Thubten Namgal Ling and for the ongoing construction of the library, classrooms, Manjushri Hall, H.H. the Sakya Trizin’s Hall, the Sakya Pandita Hall, etc. In addition, a new water tower was newly constructed near the monastery, as it is difficult to obtain drinking water at the nearby Sakyapa settlement. These projects are all still unfinished. The reason all these projects can be completed is all due to the aspiration and compassion of H.H. the Sakya Trizin and His the most reverend sons; I believe all these projects are part of their overall endeavors. As of past, I will continue to take H.H. the Sakya Trizin and His the most reverend sons as examples to follow and do my best to benefit the spreading of Sakyapa teachings. With the aid of Dharma protectors and H.H. the Sakya Trizin’s compassionate blessings, may all my aspirations be fulfilled in accordance to the Dharma.


Written by Khenpo Sonam Dundhup in a hotel in Northern India on June 28, 2014.


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