Ven. Gonsar Rinpoche

Gonsar Rinpoche
Ven. Gonsar Rinpoche

During the time of the 7th Dalai Lama, a young man from Amdo requested acceptance at the house of his countrymen in the Sera monastery near Lhasa. His appearance was so poor and shabby, that he was refused. Turning away from the house he met an old woman in the grounds of the monastery who suggested that he request admittance to Chadrel House and ensured him that he would be accepted there. He did as he was told, and after joining the monastery he showed great enthusiasm in his studies.

Soon the extraordinary qualities of a great master became apparent. He became famous as Master Ngawang Thöndrup and extensively served the teachings of the Buddha as Abbot of the Sera Je monastery and as one of the tutors of His Holiness the 8th Dalai Lama. He spent a lot of time in meditation in a cave in the mountains near Lhasa, where later the Gonsar retreat monastery was built.

When the people of Lhasa observed the new monastery they immediately started to call him ‘Gonsar’ which in Tibetan means ‘the lama of the new monastery’. This name has remained with the lineage of the Gonsar Rinpoches until today. The old woman that had led the first Gonsar Rinpoche to his college came to be known as an emanation of Palden Lhamo.

The fourth Gonsar Rinpoche, the previous incarnation to the present one, also studied in Sera monastery. After completing his studies with the Geshe examinations in his early twenties, he travelled to Mongolia and became one of the greatest masters amongst the later Buddhist masters of Mongolia. Teaching there for more than thirty years and frequently showing supernatural powers, he was greatly cherished by the population and almost all of the contemporary masters of Mongolia became his disciples. He returned to Tibet at the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution and continued his vast activities there. The family of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama were also among his distinguished disciples.

Gonsar Rinpoche

The present Gonsar Rinpoche was born in 1949 in Shigatse, Tibet, to an aristocratic family known to be descendants of the ancient Tibetan kings. At that time his father was governor of the province Tsang, in western Tibet. At the age of three, Gonsar Rinpoche was recognized as the fifth incarnation in the line of the Gonsar Rinpoches, which was confirmed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

At the age of six, he entered Sera monastery, the second largest Monastic University of Tibet at that time. From the very beginning he was raised and tutored under the kind care of Venerable Geshe Rabten. Gonsar Rinpoche received a great number of teachings and transmissions from His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other masters, in particular from his root gurus Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang and the Venerable Geshe Rabten.

In 1959, when Tibet fell under the power of Red China, Gonsar Rinpoche fled with his master to India and continued his studies there. At the same time he learnt English and Hindi. In 1969 he started to translate into English the Buddhist teachings given to western students by his master Geshe Rabten.

Due to many requests on part of Geshe Rabten’s Western students, in 1974 he and Gonsar Rinpoche came to Switzerland, where they founded The Center for Higher Tibetan Studies Rabten Choeling.

Gonsar Rinpoche

After the Venerable Geshe Rabten passed away in 1986, Gonsar Rinpoche, after spending 33 years as his closest disciple, continued his master’s activities. Now, Gonsar Rinpoche is director of the center Rabten Choeling in Mont Pèlerin, Switzerland, as well as of affiliated centers in Austria, Germany and Italy. He gives regular teachings directly in French, English, German or Tibetan.

He is also the abbot of Zongkar Choede, a small monastery in South India and a co-founder of Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling Monastery which he inaugurated on July 5th, 1998.

The first Gonsar Rinpoche was famous for his particularly vast and profound teachings on the complete path of mental development to full enlightenment. All Gonsar Rinpoches are significant yogis of the Hayagriva Tantra. The present Gonsar Rinpoche is renowned as one of the very few contemporary masters capable of transmitting every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings as a clear and moving experience to Western as well as Tibetan audiences.

Sources: Rabten Choeling (
Dagom Gaden Tensung Ling (


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