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Education in Compassion and Wisdom

Biography of Ge-dun-lo-dro

Born in the capital of Tibet, Hla-sa, in 1924, Ge-shay Ge-dun-lo-dro entered Dre-pung Monastic University (Ham-dong House in Go-mang College) on the outskirts of Hla-sa at the age of nine as a novice monk. He took basic examinations in 1940, received full ordination in 1947, and gained the degree of Ge-shay in 1961 in exile in India as the first among three scholars who were awarded the number one ranking in the highest class. He was a scholar of prodigious learning, keeping in active memory 1,800 folios of basic texts, which in English would be at least 3,600 pages. He told me that he accomplished this by using all spare time (such as in walking from one place to another) to recite texts to himself. Even more, he was famed for his ability in debate; by his own account he was the equal of others when taking the position of challenger but was at his best when answering others’ challenges. He was chosen to become a faculty member at Go-mang College before graduation.

Ge-dun-lo-dro related that when the Chinese began shelling in Hla-sa, he climbed the steep hill above Dre-pung and looked down on the unfolding scene, realizing that the type of life and opportunity for study he had had until 1959 would never occur again. He knew he was seeing the end of an era.

In exile in India, Ge-dun-lo-dro took his Ge-shay degree with top honors and later when the Dalai Lama conducted interviews of all the Ge-shays who had escaped, Ge-dun-lo-dro was declared to be the top scholar. The Dalai Lama sent him to teach at the University of Hamburg in 1967, where he learned German fluently and eventually became a tenured member of the faculty. I first met him in 1970 when he visited his main teacher and my mentor, Kensur Ngawang Lekden, in Madison, Wisconsin. Kensur Lekden spoke very highly of his student, and thus I wrote into a Fulbright grant proposal three months of study with him in Hamburg while I was on my way to India at the end of 1971. His fluid treatment of many philosophical issues during my stay in Hamburg led to my inviting him to the University of Virginia in 1979, when I translated the lectures that comprise this book. He returned to Hamburg at the beginning of August of that year, and suddenly passed away in November, slumping to the floor outside the door of his apartment. We had many plans to work on various texts and systems, and indeed the world lost one of its most learned persons.

Links to Ge-dun-lo-dro Series