Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist scholar and meditator who for 30 years has overseen the spiritual activities of the extensive worldwide network of centers, projects and services that form the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) which he founded with Lama Thubten Yeshe.
Rinpoche’s vision is vast and includes the proliferation of many charitable and beneficial activities. Among many projects dear to Rinpoche’s heart are the two Maitreya Projects, which include plans to build two large statues of the future Buddha, Maitreya, in Bodhgaya and Kushinagar in India; The Sera Je Food Fund, which offers three vegetarian meals a day to all 2,500 monks studying at Sera Je Monastery in south India; Animal Liberation events around the world, at which creatures, big and small, are freed from immediate harm or blessed every year– the total number of animals liberated to date (by Lama Zopa Rinpoche or those inspired by him) is over 200,000,000 and counting! Rinpoche is also utterly dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in any way possible.
The life of Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Lama Zopa Rinpoche und Lama Yeshe 1969 – © LYWA
Born in the Mount Everest region of Thame in 1946, Rinpoche was recognized soon afterwards by His Holiness Tulshig Rinpoche and five other lamas as the reincarnation of the great yogi Kunsang Yeshe. At the age of ten, Rinpoche went to Tibet and studied and meditated at Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery near Pagri, until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced him to forsake Tibet for the safety of Bhutan.
Rinpoche then went to the Tibetan refugee camp at Buxa Duar, West Bengal, India, where he met Lama Yeshe, who became his closest teacher. The Lamas met their first Western student, Zina Rachevsky, in 1965 then traveled with her to Nepal in 1967 where they began teaching more Westerners. Over the next few years they built Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries. In 1971 Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave the first of his famous annual lam-rim retreat courses, which continue at Kopan to this day.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche 1975 – © LYWA
FPMT was established at the end of 1975. Lama Yeshe served as the organization’s spiritual director until he passed away in 1984, at which time Rinpoche took over. Since then, under his peerless guidance, the FPMT has continued to flourish.
A Glimpse into the Contributions Lama Zopa Rinpoche Has Made
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s life accomplishments and contributions to the world thus far have served as an incredible testament to Rinpoche’s tremendous compassion for others.
Lama Zopa 1979 – © LYWA
In 1970 Rinpoche founded, sponsored and built Kopan Monastery and Nunnery in Nepal. There are now approximately 400 monks and 400 nuns residing and studying there. In addition to starting Kopan Monastery and Nunnery, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has taken on the responsibility for sponsorship and development of Thubten Shedrup Ling Monastery, Eastern Nepal and in Tsum (the border region of Nepal and Tibet), Mu Monastery and Ranchen Nunnery.
Rinpoche has established a number of free schools in India, and Mongolia, as well as a school offering western education (up to year 9) for the monks and nuns at Kopan Monastery and Nunnery. For example: Maitreya School, Bodhgaya has over 120 children, Tara Children’s Project in Bodhgaya is an orphanage for Indian children who are HIV positive, Children’s Development center in Mongolia, focuses on bringing Dharma education after school to children in Mongolia.
Lama Zopa 2010 – © LYWA
In 1999, Lama Zopa Rinpoche sponsored the building of Idgaa Choizinling Monastery in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia. This is a Mongolian branch of Sera Je Monastery. Rinpoche also established the very first nunnery in Mongolia and continues to take tremendous effort to bring Dharma to Mongolia.
In 2010 Lama Zopa Rinpoche received the prestigious Polar Star certificate from the Mongolian President in recognition of Rinpoche’s contribution in reestablishing the Dharma in Mongolia as well as for social projects.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche with Khandro-la (Rangjung Neljorma Khandro Namsel Drönme) © FPMT
Rinpoche has an incredibly vast visions for FPMT, reaching far into the future, such as building 100,000 stupas and prayer wheels around the world so we can easily purify and create merit and in this way contribute to world peace. Rinpoche has already sponsored the creation of many holy objects around the world such as 11 large prayer wheels, 48 large stupas, 15 statues of Padmasambhava, as well as creating large thangkas for different centers around the world to display and make offerings to on special occasions, and writing the Prajnaparamita sutra in gold to be placed in heart of Maitreya Buddha statue in India.
Causing no harm to any sentient being is a high priority of Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Rinpoche actively propagates vegetarianism in his Dharma talks, and also sponsors regular animal liberations and blessing, as well as sponsoring pujas during times when there are many animals killed (for instance on Thanksgiving and Darshain holidays).
Lama Zopa Rinpoche und Lama Ösel – © FPMT