First published on: November 30, 2015
Born in 1933 in eastern Tibet, Choden Rinpoche was recognized at age three as the reincarnation of a previous Rinpoche, who himself had been one of the candidates for the twelfth Dalai Lama. At age eight he entered Rabten monastery, and at age fifteen went to Sera Je monastery, where he studied the five main texts.
Although Rinpoche studied through the Lharam class and could have become a geshe, his teacher asked him not to take the exams yet. Choden Rinpoche decided to study the teachings on Vinaya – monastic discipline – and is regarded as one of the foremost experts on the subject. Choden Rinpoche was one of the two Sera Je lamas selected to debate with His Holiness the Dalai Lama during His Holiness’s geshe exams.
During the communist Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959, Choden Rinpoche stayed in Tibet and went into solitary retreat for 19 years. He never left his tiny, dark room in Lhasa from 1965 to 1985, and was virtually unknown in his monastery for this reason. In 1985 he was allowed to leave Tibet for India, and has since taught for many years thousands of students at Sera Je monastery in South India. At the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Choden Rinpoche has now visited the west many times to give teachings and lead retreats.