Venerable Geshe Kalsang Damdul
Kalsang Damdul was born in 1953 in a remote village in central Tibet. At just six years of age, he was included in a great wave of Tibetans who fled in the 1959 exodus from their homeland, across the Himalayas into India. Suddenly refugees, Kalsang and all the young Tibetan students found themselves in the newly-formed Central School for Tibetans in Mussoorie, India. At 16 years of age, Kalsang Damdul asked to take ordination as a monk in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He joined the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD) in Dharamsala, H.P., India in 1973 to pursue graduate level studies in Tibetan Buddhism, rituals and meditational practices. He received his
Master’s Degree in Prajnaparamita Buddhist Philosophy (The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra) in 1980, and a second Master’s Degree in Mahdyamika Buddhist Philosophy in 1983. He received his Geshe Degree, which is equivalent to a PhD., in 1995 from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Mundgod, South India. He received his Bhikkhu ordination from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Geshe Kalsang Damdul (Geshe la) has received many empowerments, lineal transmissions, and teachings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, from the late master His Eminence Lati Rinpoche, from the Gaden Tripa Lobsang Nyima, from the late master Denma Lochoe Rinpoche; also from the two senior tutors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and many other great Tibetan spiritual masters and teachers. Geshe la states that his main and root teacher was the late, Venerable Lobsang Gyatso, Director of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, and one of the most respected logicians, teachers, and meditation masters of the twentieth century.
In 1983, Geshe la was appointed to be the Assistant Director for the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics (IBD), Dharamsala, H.P. India, under the direct administration of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He has been in their service ever since.
Geshe la served as the translator for the late Dr. Tenzin Chodak, His Holiness Dalai Lama’s personal physician in 1985, and then for His Eminence Gaden Tripa, the Throne Holder of the Gelug Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, in 1987.
Geshe la served as a member of the Advisory Council for Tibetan Education from 1998 – 2011. He was the Vice-Chair for the Tibetan Human Rights & Democracy Group. He has taught meditation to many Tibetan community members in various regions of India, including Tibetan Children’s Villages in Dharamsala, other Tibetan Schools in the NE region of India, and Tibetan Settlements in Chandra, India.
As the representative for IBD for 33 years, Geshe la attended many conferences and events around the world, such as Asian Studies, East-West Dialogues, Peace Conferences, and International Buddhist Conferences.
Over the years, Geshe la was the founding member of International Student Exchange Programs between IBD and Emory University in Atlanta, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.
In May of 2001, Geshe la was recruited to become the spiritual director of the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association in Portland, Oregon, where he remained for 1.5 years. In 2003, he moved to the newly formed Shakyamuni Tibetan Buddhist Center, also in Portland, Oregon. Geshe la has been our Spiritual Director and Main Teacher from that time to present day. He has come to Portland each year, or whenever his schedule would allow, on summer sabbaticals to give teachings. He also taught summer classes in Buddhism as a visiting Tibetan scholar at Portland State University for ten years, from 2003- 2013. During these sabbatical summers, Geshe la also taught classes in Buddhism at Emory University and Earlham College. He developed a program through Miami University in Ohio that studied and demonstrated the positive effects of meditation on PTSD. Geshe la taught classes on meditation at a Women’s Shelter in Amethyst, Ohio and at Ohio State University in 2009 and 2010, and at UC Irvine in 2012.
Geshe la was elected by the Tibetan people in 2011 to be a member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile. The duties for this newly formed government position included the inspection of six different Tibetan settlements, and overseeing the needs and the well-being of the Tibetan people who lived in his district.
In 2014, Geshe Kalsang Damdul was appointed Director for the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, where he currently continues as Director. He opted not to submit his name for reelection to the Tibetan Parliament in Exile this year, and his term of office ended in Spring of 2016. Geshe la states that when he retires, he wants to spend his time teaching the dharma, continuing to oversee programs and projects that he has created, and fulfilling his duties as Spiritual Director of STBC.