Geshe Lama Konchog studied in Sera Monastery in Tibet from the age of 7 to 32 (1934-1959). Although the monks were not allowed to take tantric initiations and teachings until after they completed their Geshe studies, Geshe-la used to sneak out to attend initiations and teachings by such Lamas as Pabongka Rinpoche, Trijang Rinpoche and Pari Rinpoche. He also completed the short retreats of the deities he was initiated into, staying in the labrangs of these Lamas. He completed his Geshe studies and was about to take his final exams in 1959, but had to escape Tibet. He left Tibet with only the robes he was wearing, a sheepskin and some texts from all four traditions. Along the way he met someone who said that the weather was warm in Nepal and he wouldn't need the sheepskin, so he sold it for a small amount of money. But he still had another small piece of sheepskin.
At first he went to Tsum in Nepal and left his texts with someone there, then went to Kathmandu with the intention of going to Buxa. He met his Guru Trijang Rinpoche in Kathmandu, who told him not to go to Buxa but to return to the mountains to meditate. But Geshe-la really wanted to go to Buxa, so he did not accept his Guru's advice, but went to India. While travelling on a train with a friend who wanted to visit Varanasi, Geshe-la met Trijang Rinpoche on the same train. Trijang Rinpoche asked him what he was doing in India, and told him to go back to the mountains in Nepal to meditate. This time Geshe-la did, he went straight back to Tsum, collected his texts from the people he had left them with and went up into the mountains without telling anyone where he was going. He had only his texts, his one set of robes, the small piece of sheepskin and a leaky pot. He found a cave high above the village, which happened to be a cave where Milarepa had meditated, and where Milarepa's sister offered him cloth for robes. Geshe-la stayed there for 10 years without leaving or seeing anyone. He was very strong and didn't sleep at night but did prostrations all night. He lived on nettles that grew around the cave. (Tenzin Zopa once asked a local meditator, Rinchen Wangchug, who knew Geshe-la during this time, what Geshe la lived on and this meditator said that Geshe-la did chu-len during those 10 years, but when Tenzin Zopa asked Geshe-la about this, he didn't confirm it.) Geshe-la said this was the happiest time of his life....
After staying there for 10 years, some villagers who went up into the mountains with their sheep happened to see him. He must have looked rather frightening at that time! They told him that they would give him human food if he would come down to the village and recite texts for them, but he refused, saying that he had the best food. But the villagers continued to disturb him so he decided to leave the cave and live someone where else. He found another cave, but it wasn't as good as the first one — it was only a half-cave, so he had to build it up with stones.
The people in the village below this cave (this was the village Tenzin Zopa is from) had lots of problems with spirits and with rain not falling at the right time and so forth, and Geshe-la helped them. His mantras were incredibly effective to eliminate these problems, so the villagers came to depend on him, and Geshe-la was very compassionate, always helping whoever asked for help. He continued to do retreats and would help the people in between retreats. The villages called him "Grandfather Lama" and regarded him as very precious. In time, monks and nuns in the area (who were mostly from the Kargyu tradition) requested Geshe-la to be their abbot and requested teachings from him. Geshe-la gave them sutra and tantra teachings – he was learned in all four traditions.
So altogether Geshe-la was in the mountains in retreat for 26 years. He had come to Kathmandu a few times and met Lama Yeshe, his old friend from Sera, and although Lama Yeshe requested him several times to stay at Kopan, Geshe-la did not accept but always returned to Tsum. There was one time when Geshe-la accompanied Lama Yeshe to the airport in Kathmandu when Lama was leaving on a visit overseas and on the way someone offered Lama a pair of shoes. Geshe-la felt very sad because he thought that he would not see Lama again... Finally in 1985, one year after Lama Yeshe passed away, Geshe-la came to stay at Kopan. When asked by Tenzin Zopa how it happened that he came to Kopan, Geshe-la only said that Lama Zopa Rinpoche did a Chokyong (Dharma Protector) puja to "hook" him into helping Kopan and FPMT. Perhaps Lama Zopa Rinpoche could provide more information on this point!
Tenzin Zopa also says in
answer to the question as to why Geshe-la came to Kopan, that it's because of
all the things he did in the past, all the things he is doing now, and all the
things he will do in the future. Also, it's due to our good karma!
Geshe Lama Konchog
The Search for Geshe Konchog's Reincarnation
Geshe Lama Konchog passed away on the 15th of October 2001. The search for the incarnation of our Most beloved Teacher and guru Geshe Lama Konchog is about to begin. According to one observation a whole range of pujas, and prayers need to be done to remove all obstacles to finding the true incarnation.
All Geshe la's students are invited to participate in the prayers. Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lhundrup advised that it would be very beneficial if the western and chinese students of geshe la can collect 1 million Vajrasattva mantras, with strong dedication to find the true incarnation quickly and without obstacle or doubt.
When Lobsang Puntsog (Geshe Lama Konchog) was six, his parents decided to send him to nearby Drepung, one of the three great Gelug monasteries in Lhasa. But already the young boy was displaying a quality that would be central to his life: he knew exactly what he wanted and would pursue it with single-minded determination. He declared that he wanted to attend Sera Monastery instead. As he had an uncle there, his parents relented. He studied in Sera from the age of 7 to 32 (1934-1959)
His uncle, however, was a dob-dob - one of a group of monks found at most the Gelug monasteries who were basically self-appointed policemen - who actively discouraged the young boy's wish to study and practice and would beat him regularly.
But nothing could deter Lobsang Puntsog. In the monasteries, it was forbidden to take tantric initiations until one had completed the study of the five major treatises. However, at the age of nine he joined a group of lamas and monks to take the Vajra Yogini initiation from his root guru Trijang Rinpoche, the junior tutor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Throughout his years at Sera, beginning when he was a child, Lama Konchog would disappear for months at a time, travelling to various places around Tibet to take into his astonishing mind a whole range of skills, rarely found all in one person. "He was expert in so many fields," says Tenzin Zopa. "Apart from the sutra and tantra teachings of all the four traditions of Tibet, he was also accomplished at Cham dancing, rituals, sand mandalas, astrology, making divinations, architecture according to the Vinaya - his knowledge was astonishing."
For Geshe Jampa Tseten, it is clear now that his "crazy" schoolmate was not an ordinary being. "He was a holy being, a great meditator, since he was a small child."
Life in the Mountains
According to Lama Lhundrup, the abbot of Kopan Monastery, the route that Geshe Lama Konchog followed out of Tibet (after the uprising against the Chinese in 1959) was revealed in a dream. The route took him to the village of Tsum, just over the border into Nepal, and to the cave of Tibet's beloved yogi and saint, Milarepa. The cave is known as 'Cave of the Doves', high in the mountainous jungle, where only tigers and other wild animals, as well as deer, lived. It is said that dakas and dakinis transformed into doves here to listen to Milarepa's teaching. It was here, also, that Milarepa was offered robes by his sister.
According to his own account to Tenzin Zopa, Geshe Lama Konchog trained himself during the first few months "to have an empty stomach. I lived on nettles, and gradually was able to practice 'wind chulen' " - a method whereby the meditator can "take the essence" (chulen) from nature. The usual method practiced by yogis is to take the essences from rocks and flowers, then mixing them into pills. But Lama Konchog decided to do without all sustenance. He literally took the essence from the air, and was able to survive.
Geshe Lama Konchog lived like this for at least seven years: full of utter determination to achieve realizations, compelled by great compassion, and delighting in his solitude, with only the tigers and deer for friends. Asked later how he felt about conditions in the West, he said, "It is all contaminated! The best food I ever had was in the cave. The best place I've ever lived in was the cave. The best friends I ever had were in the cave." The cave needed to be climbed into, and the deer "would support each other in order to get in. Sometimes they would sit all day and night. We'd stay peacefully together with no fear. For me, that was a pure land!".
Coming to Kopan
So altogether Geshe-la was in the mountains in retreat for 26 years. He had come to Kathmandu a few times and met Lama Yeshe, his old friend from Sera, and although Lama Yeshe requested him several times to stay at Kopan, Geshe-la did not accept but always returned to Tsum. There was one time when Geshe-la accompanied Lama Yeshe to the airport in Kathmandu when Lama was leaving on a visit overseas and on the way someone offered Lama a pair of shoes. Geshe-la felt very sad because he thought that he would not see Lama again... Finally in 1985, one year after Lama Yeshe passed away, Geshe-la came to stay at Kopan.
Geshe Lama Konchog's Death
Around 8:15 on the evening of October 15 2001, Tenzin Zopa and others were with Geshe Lama Konchog. Remembers Tenzin Zopa, "Geshe-la said to us, 'Now the vision of the mirage has appeared' - the first of the eight internal signs of death - 'so please go and start the prayers.' We all left except my brother Thubten Lhundrup, who recited Geshe-la's daily prayers for him. At 8.50 his breathing stopped."
Prayers were performed in Geshe-la's house throughout the day and night during the seven days that he remained in meditation. On October 22, his holy body was carried in solemn procession to the site of the fire puja, which lasted for several hours amid auspicious signs of five types of rainbows and a drizzle of flowers from the sky. At the end, the specially constructed stupa containing the fire was sealed.
Kopan's lamas and three hundred monks and nearby Khachoe Ghakyil's three hundred nuns, as well as many devoted students from abroad, attended the Yamantaka fire puja, held at a site chosen by Lama Zopa Rinpoche.http://www.kopan-monastery.com/teachers_konchog.html