Gampopa Center

Dharma Center in Annapolis, Maryland

Lama Phurbu Tashi was born to the Khotig family on May 10th, 1973, near Mount Minyak Gangkar, in the Kham village of Liuba. At a young age, he displayed signs of a noble being, such as sharp intellect and a compassionate mind. Subsequently, the lamas of Gangkar Monastery, a neighbouring Kagyu monastery, recognized him as a “tulku”, or incarnate lama, and requested that his family, devotees of the Sakya tradition, allow him to train in their community. Disagreeing with this proposal, the local Sakya monastery asked his parents not to send him there, causing much contention. Eventually, the parents agreed to his education at Gangkar Monastery, where he remained for many years.

Later, with the intention to benefit all beings with these teachings, he was sent to Palpung Monastery’s college. There, he spent two years studying grammar, poetry, astrology and many texts, including the Getsul Karika.

As his only aim was to meditate and study the Dharma, and as many of the most respected lamas were in India, in 1990 he decided to travel there.

Arriving there, he had the following thought: “If I am a reincarnated lama, I will naturally be of benefit to the Dharma doctrines and all beings.” He didn’t use his reincarnation title and didn’t care about reputation and position. He spent a humble life earnestly practicing the Dharma.

This wish to remain simple and humble did not make his life an easy one. Each step of his spiritual life, as we will see, required tremendous courage and immeasurable patience to move forward.

Initially, he studied logic for a while at Drepung Monastery. Later, we find him again in Nepal, and afterwards, Sikkim, India, where he studied English, Sanskrit, Tibetan sciences, Buddhist history and many various texts of the Sutras and the Tantras at Nalanda Institute, an advanced Buddhist university in Rumtek, under the direction of H. E. Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

There, he achieved an enviable level of erudition that, nonetheless, did not fulfil his aspirations. Rather, he thought he would need to practice a concrete spiritual path.

Invited by an acquaintance with whom he had corresponded faithfully over the years, he travelled to Switzerland in May of 1999, allowing him to discover, sometimes with astonishment, the occidental Buddhism and the exiled Tibetan community in the West. Numerous personal thoughts and the experience of his travels led to his discovery that erudition is not a goal in itself.

Once back in Asia, he made preparations for a three years, three months, three days retreat under the direction of V.V. Bokar Rinpoche. The meeting with this master was of outstanding importance to his future. Despite the loss of space in the retreat, Bokar Rinpoche decided to accept him in the Karma Kagyu retreat that began in 2000. During that retreat, the mutual respect between the two men grew in such a way that, by the end of the retreat, Bokar Rinpoche asked him to be the Drubpon (meditation master) of the Shangpa Kagyu retreat, scheduled to begin in early 2005, shortly after the completion of construction of the retreat buildings above Mirik Monastery. With great misfortune, the life of Bokar Rinpoche ended six months before the beginning of that retreat he wished so much to see come to fruition. Nevertheless, thanks to the dedication and skill of the new Drubpon Lama Phurbu Tashi, the wishes of Rinpoche have been fulfilled to the best of their potential.

After teaching in the retreat, Lama gave numerous teachings in various countries as Switzerland, France, Indonesia, China, and so on.

Among all those who have been fortunate enough to meet Lama Purbu Tashi, many of them share the same experience: when he begins to teach or speak about the Dharma, this robust-looking native of Kham suddenly changes in appearance, becoming luminous and pure like a diamond. It is without a doubt then, that we are in the presence of a very accomplished meditator and a compassionate teacher of the Dharma.

Karma Rinchen Dordje (Jean Fontannaz)