by Jean D’Cruz

From a very young age, Geshe Loden (then known as Lodro Denpa) demonstrated an unusual capacity for compassion and generosity, not just for people but also for animals. He was naturally inclined to meditating and reciting mantras, and as a child was often found meditating in a cave. 

Lab Khenchen Rinpoche, a great lama, visited Lodro Denpa when he was six, blessed the child and predicted that if he became a monk he would be of benefit to many beings and aid the spread of the Buddha’s teachings. Rinpoche ordained the boy as a lay devotee and cut his hair to symbolise the turning to religious values. 

From then on, the child was determined to be a monk and to attend a monastery. His father, reluctant to lose his eldest child, would not support this. His grandfather, however, agreed to help him run away to the nearby village monastery, Drombu Monastery. He took him there and left the happy child there. 

From Drombu to Sershu Monastery 

Lodro Denpa then enthusiastically engaged in study, memorisation and practice. He was ordained as a novice monk and given the name Thubten Loden. He did a six-month fasting retreat and received teachings on the Graded Path to Enlightenment. After seven years at Drombu Monastery, he moved to the much larger Sershu Monastery, which offered a far more extensive study programme. He was keen to do the Geshe studies. 

Going to Sershu Monastery meant leaving his home region for an unknown future. Thubten Loden later reflected that this was one of the hardest decisions of his life. Knowing there would be resistance from his family and his monastery, he decided to leave without telling anyone. The three-day journey on foot was extremely difficult and he had to contend with wild animals and the freezing cold. 

At Sershu monastery, having no sponsor and no money, Thubten Loden lived on the uncompleted second floor of his college. He spent two years experiencing great difficulty and living on very little until a senior monk’s wealthy family took pity on him and regularly brought him food and fuel for a fire. To maximise his time for study and meditation, he decided not to lie down to sleep and built a brick wall around his meditation seat.  

Thubten Loden was very happy studying at Sershu, but a series of events changed his life leading him to decide to leave Sershu Monastery and go to the great monastic University, Sera Monastery in the capital, Lhasa. The journey took two months on foot, and he began his studies at Sera in 1941.  

The invasion of Tibet in 1959 by the communist Chinese had a devastating impact on the whole country and the monasteries. Thousands of Tibetans, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, escaped to India as refugees. Thubten Loden and some of his students underwent a gruelling and dangerous month-long journey to India on foot. 

Geshe-la completes important studies in India

India very kindly took the Tibetan refugees in. The abbots did not tolerate any lapse in discipline and the monks resumed their studies in makeshift huts in the refugee camps.  

His Holiness the Dalai Lama then organised for the best students in the three main monasteries to study and debate together. After seven years, this class attended the Sanskrit University at Varanasi to do the Indian Acharya Degree. Thubten Loden graduated with honours in 1970.  

The special class then undertook a series of examinations by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and very high Geshes and abbots at the three main monasteries and in Dharamsala. Thubten Loden was awarded equal first place at all these events and received his Geshe Lharampa degree. He was then selected to attend Gyumay Tantric College and spent six years there, achieving his degree in tantric studies with honours. 

It had long been an ambition of Geshe Loden’s to develop Lord Buddha’s teachings, particularly in places where they were not well established. He thus accepted an invitation to come to Australia in 1976 to spread the Buddha’s teachings.  

The lineage continues 

Loden Rinpoche, who has been identified as the reincarnation of Geshe Loden, has now entered Sera Je Monastery at the age of seven, the same age that Lodro Denpa entered his first monastery. The young Rinpoche now lives near Sera Je Monastery.  

As well as undertaking the traditional monastic studies, Loden Rinpoche will have a general education in Science, Maths, English and, as Geshe Loden always wanted for his reincarnation, training in computers! 

Geshe Loden’s journey from a young boy to becoming a highly qualified and respected Lharampa Geshe was a long and difficult one, filled with many obstacles and hardships.  

We trust that the journey that Loden Rinpoche takes for his education will be an easier one. He has a ready-made comfortable house, people to help him, is recognised by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his monastery as a Rinpoche, and the support of the Tibetan Buddhist Society.  

May Loden Rinpoche have excellent health, good conditions and success in his studies for the benefit of all living beings.