“… if I am able to accomplish some small service to preserving and maintaining the cultural heritage of Tibet, then I feel this is important. So I am also doing my best to engage in whatever efforts I can to maintain and preserve the ancient heritage and culture of Tibet.”
—Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa
Lama Chödak Gyatso’s family lineage is one of generations of highly respected meditators and teachers of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in Aninkar, western Tibet, Lama Chödak Gyatso was forced to flee Tibet in 1959 with his family at the age of eight. Inspired by his early monastic training at Wenthri Ling Monastery, which people pronounce as Nyen T’hrilung, Lama Chödak Gyatso’s focus during this difficult escape was to neutralize any feelings of anger and hatred and to cultivate compassion in their place.
“…when I was four, I was taken to Wenthri Ling… which means, “Wenpai Rithrod,” or, “Solitary Mountain Retreat Land”. This was the seat of my grand-uncles, the monastery which was once an Ani-Gonpa (Nunnery) many centuries ago, but then later declined and was handed over to my Grand Uncle, His Holiness Kyabje Nubpa Rinpoche, becoming his monastery.”
—Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa
In spite of his new-found refugee status, Lama Chödak Gyatso was able to continue his traditional Buddhist training while in exile. The exodus also enabled him to begin his western education. At the age of fifteen, Lama Chödak Gyatso was invited to attend the prestigious Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi, India. Upon completion of his degree, Lama Chödak Gyatso then spent two years at the University of Delhi, studying both Eastern and Western philosophy at the post-graduate level.
Lama Chödak Gyatso’s training also focused on spiritual advancement, and he received the majority of his spiritual training, including teachings and spiritual transmissions, from the following principle masters: Nubpa Lama Ögyen Rinpoche, Zang Zang Lama Dhonyod Rinpoche, His Holiness Dodrupchen Rinpoche, His Holiness Jadral Rinpoche, His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, and His Holiness Trulshik Rinpoche. Lama Gyatso also received teachings and transmissions from Khenpo Tsondru Rinpoche, Khenpo Thupten Rinpoche, Lama Topgyal Rinpoche, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, and His Holiness Dilgo Kheyntse Rinpoche.
In 1979, Lama Chödak Gyatso was selected by fellow Tibetans to represent them in the Parliament of the Tibetan Government in Exile. From 1979 until 1990, Lama Chödak Gyatso worked closely with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, serving the Tibetan Government in Exile as a representative of the Nyingma Community in Exile, and subsequently serving as both the Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Tibetan Congress in Exile. As Chairman, Lama Gyatso advocated and directed programs to preserve and promote Tibetan culture, spirituality, and human rights, thus supporting the Tibetan peoples’ aspiration to preserve their cultural identity.
Lama Chödak Gyatso moved to the United States in 1992 at the request of His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, and held the seat of Chagdud Gonpa T’hondup Ling in Los Angeles from 1997 until his passing in October, 2009. Lama Gyatso created the Tools for Peace™ program, and founded Ari Bhöd, America’s Tibet (The American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation) in 2003 to preserve the most priceless aspect of Tibetan culture, “that which can bring peace to humanity.”
The Venerable Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa passed away on October 13, 2009, the 25th day of the Tibetan calendar, at Chorten Gonpa in Sikkim, India. His passing, like all aspects of his life, was an example to all of those around him, as his singular focus to benefit others at every moment of his life never wavered. His spiritual legacy continues to grow through Ari Bhöd and its programs.