Risking everything: A Tibetan escape

They had watched their guide walk away, disappearing into a thick mist. A sudden hailstorm covered the guide’s tracks in the frozen snow, leaving Geshe Yondong and nine other bewildered Tibetans in a strange, frozen landscape high in the Himalayas. They were lost. Geshe Yondong wondered how long they could survive in the cold. He thought would die on this remote mountain, his family never to learn the manner or time of his death. He would never achieve his goal of reaching India, where he could study with the most revered teachers in the Bon religion.

Geshe Yongdong shivered in the frigid mountain air and thought about the brief encounter six years earlier with a charismatic lama. That fleeting encounter had inspired him to attempt this dangerous escape from Tibet that would likely end in his death by exposure.

Geshe Yongdong had spent only a few minutes with the renowned Yongdzin Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche, known in our book as Tenzin Namdak, in 1986. Twenty-six years after escaping from Tibet, Yongdzin Rinpoche had returned to the country of his birth to tour Bon monasteries. His visit was made possible by a momentary softening of the hard line toward religion during the 1980s and his favorable reputation. Yongdzin Rinpoche was in the good graces of Chinese officials because of his efforts to raise money for Tibetan schools. His trip was intended to inspire and encourage the monks laboring under Chinese oppression who had rebuilt monasteries damaged or destroyed during the occupation.

One of his stops was at the Nangzhig Bon Monastery in Ngawa, Amdo Province, keeping a promise he made to an old friend who perished during the Cultural Revolution, Lama Tenpa Woger. Tenpa Woger was one of the most learned monks at the Menri Monastery in Tibet in the 1950s. Under orders from Yongdzin Rinpoche, Tenpa Woger returned to Nangzhig amid savage fighting between Tibetans and their Chinese occupiers. Tenpa Woger was content with his duties at Menri and reluctant to return to Amdo, but Yongdzin Rinpoche insisted. Yongdzin Rinpoche believed the Nangzhig Monastery needed a wise leader to guide Bonpos through those treacherous times. Eventually Tenpa Woger bowed to Tenzin’s request, but exacted a promise that Yongdzin Rinpoche would visit Nangzhig at his earliest opportunity. Yongdzin Rinpoche’s escape to Nepal forced him to postpone his promise for decades. He would never see his friend again.

Yongdzin Rinpoche’s long-delayed visit to Nangzhig Monastery enthralled 18-year-old Yongdong, then a monk studying for his Geshe degree at Nangzhig, the largest Bon monastery in Tibet with more than 1,000 monks. The monastery grounds were so large that it took Yongdzin Rinpoche nearly two hours to circumambulate its temples. While making the long walk around the monastery complex he passed giant prayer wheels taller than a man, giving each a push to send them spinning their prayers across the earth.

Yongdong stood for hours with thousands of other Bonpos waiting to receive a blessing. The line stretched out of sight as Yongdong approached Yongdzin Rinpoche, seated on a dais in front of the monastery’s great temple. Yongdzin Rinpoche draped a white khata across Yongdong’s shoulders and blessed him, then Yongdong was quickly ushered away as the master bestowed his blessing on the next in line. Although Yongdzin Rinpoche had barely spoken to Yongdong, offering him the same blessing he gave others, the monk felt a connection with the master. He knew as soon as he saw Yongdzin Rinpoche that he wanted him to be his teacher. The feeling was so powerful that Yongdong wept when the master departed. He resolved to study under Yongdzin Rinpoche even though it appeared to be a goal far out of his reach. He could only study under Yongdzin Rinpoche by escaping from Tibet and finding his way to the Menri Monastery in India, a daunting prospect at best.

Yongdong knew that he wanted to be a monk from the age of seven, when he witnessed a funeral ceremony attended by about forty monks. “That was the first time I ever saw with my eyes any spiritual things,” he said. “I wanted to become like one of them. It’s on my mind that I have a connection from a previous life or something.” His persistent pleas to enter a monastery were at first rebuffed because he was considered too young.

As a boy growing up under Chinese occupation, Yongdong rarely saw any Chinese authorities. He was the third oldest of five boys and two girls. His father, Yizin Gotsa Lama, was a tulku, a reincarnated master. His father initially shunned the responsibilities that come with assuming the mantle of a master and devoted his time to his export-import business. At age eight Yongdong was tasked with herding sheep for one of his father’s four brothers, Tashi Jamay. For several years he spent months at a time alone with the animals on the hilly expanse of the Tibetan Plateau, riding bareback on a yak during the day and singing himself to sleep at night under a sky brilliant with stars. He had no time to hone the basic social skills most children learn from socializing with their friends, siblings and parents. When he unexpectedly encountered another boy herding a neighboring flock, neither he nor the other boy knew how to react. Each regarded the other warily from a distance as one wild animal might regard another. They encountered each other again days later, still distant but closer than before. A few days passed and Yongdong was urging his yak to the top of a rise when a yak with the other boy astride topped the ridge from the other side. The two were only yards apart. Lacking social skills, they succumbed to their first instinct. Without a word the two dismounted and charged each other. They punched each other and grappled. The other boy was a year or two older and bigger. He straddled Yongdong and pinned him to the ground while striking him with his fists. They remained on the ground, the older boy straddling the younger for what seemed to Yongdong like an hour. Finally, the older boy freed Yongdong and each walked away. The encounter was a lesson that Yongdong learned well. As an adult he finely honed his social skills.

Yongdong never stopped asking to become a monk, but his requests were ignored until he was twelve. Yongdong’s mother, Namgyal Tso, had died and he was living with his uncle, Tashi Jamay, who had become a successful trader. His other uncle, Tashi Choezin, had four monks as guests when Yongdong approached him and again pleaded for permission to become a monk. He asked Yongdong, “Do you really want to become a monk?” Yongdong answered, “Yes, please.” His uncle asked him to go to a room where the four monks were chanting. There, Yongdong asked Jawob Rinpoche, a Bon lama, if he could become a monk. The lama granted his request and asked the boy to prostrate himself three times. “I was so excited. I was jumping everywhere and running.” Two months later he took his vows and entered the Nangzhig Monastery, about a two-hour walk from his village. The Chinese forbade anyone younger than eighteen from becoming a monk, forcing the monastery to undertake clandestine religious instruction for under-aged monks. Whenever Chinese authorities appeared or a green military truck rolled up to the monastery, Yongdong and all the monks younger than eighteen would run out the back door and disappear into the mountains or hide inside a secret room inside the temple. Yongdong achieved his geshe degree after eleven and half years of study at the age of twenty-three, one of the youngest monks to receive an advanced degree at the time.

Chinese propaganda proclaimed that Chinese who had settled in Tibet, mostly from the ethnic Han majority, and Tibetans were brothers, but the reality of Geshe Yongdong’s daily relations with Chinese taught him that Tibetans were held in low regard. Each of the indignities Geshe Yongdong personally suffered weighed on him. As the slights accumulated the idea of escaping the country became more attractive.

As a monk, Geshe Yongdong felt the sting of repression more than most Tibetans. Monks were singled out for persecution by Chinese authorities. The slightest infraction invited imprisonment, beatings or worse. Police reaction to a minor mishap in the Ngawa region business district typified the daily indignities suffered by Tibetans, especially monks. Yongdong, now twenty-four, accompanied one of his uncles, Tsewing Gyal, to downtown Ngawa. Geshe Yongdong was sitting outside a combination grocery and restaurant waiting for his uncle to finish conducting business at a nearby office. Directly behind him was a display of multicolored Chinese confections on long sticks arranged in a basket in the grocery’s open window. As Geshe Yongdong turned he accidentally hit the basket and knocked it and its contents into the street. The Chinese owner, one of the many immigrants who had swarmed into Tibet after 1959, saw the accident. The owner rushed out and began berating the monk, ignoring his attempts to apologize.

Geshe Yongdong was trying to assuage the owner and didn’t realize four uniformed police officers, one Tibetan and three Chinese, had arrived until he felt a blow to his head and his ears rang with pain. An officer had walked up behind him and smacked his ears with cupped hands. One of the Chinese officers accused the monk of being a worthless parasite who lived off the generosity of the faithful. “You have so many muscles because the Tibetan people feed you,” the officer shouted. “You eat so much, that is why you have muscles and we can beat you because you are so strong.” There was no opportunity to explain. He was slapped and pummeled, then hustled off to jail. The police almost always sided with the Chinese in a dispute between a Chinese and a Tibetan. Police especially despised monks, considering them enemies of the state.

One of the arresting Chinese officers took a particular delight in tormenting Geshe Yongdong, smacking him repeatedly after they arrived at the jail. Geshe Yongdong’s uncle followed his nephew to the police station and saw one of the officers punch his nephew several times. Alarmed, the uncle sought help from a high-ranking police official, a Tibetan and former monastery classmate of both Geshe Yongdong and one of Yongdong’s uncles, as well as a friend of uncle Tashi Jamay. The former classmate, named Geleg, agreed to intercede.

On the arrival of Geleg at the police station, the attitudes of the officers immediately changed. The two friends were careful not acknowledge each other. Geleg made it clear that the prisoner should not be mistreated. Geshe Yongdong was placed in a dark cell with four other prisoners for about two hours. Then he was taken out of the cell and into the office of a Tibetan police official sent by Geleg. The official apologized for the conduct of the officers before setting him free, telling the skeptical monk that the officers were young and untrained.

Geshe Yongdong’s desire to escape became overwhelming with the increasing weight of abuse from incidents like his encounter with the restaurant owner. In 1992 Geshe Yongdong decided to put into action his long-held desire to escape Chinese oppression.

He had no plan, just a vague idea that he could hire a guide to take him over the Himalayas. He knew the trip could end in his death. Everyone knew of friends, family and acquaintances who had died trying to cross the Himalayas and the border, some shot or beaten to death, some found frozen, some disappeared over the edge of a cliff, their bodies lost forever after a plunge into an abyss. If either the Chinese or Nepalese border guards captured him instead of shooting him, he would undoubtedly be tortured and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. If he made it across the border, it was likely that he would never be able to return to Tibet and would probably never see his family again. One of his few preparations was to make sure that his family and friends knew about his plans. If they never heard from him again, he wanted them to know why. His uncle Tashi Jamay and uncle Sherab, now living in Lhasa, gave him enough money to purchase an airline ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa and hire a guide at the border to smuggle him into Nepal. Geshe Yongdong took a bus to Chengdu where he boarded an Air China aircraft for the three-hour flight to Lhasa. In Lhasa he stayed at a house owned by his uncle near Barkor Square, living in a room overlooking a small courtyard. Geshe Yongdong exchanged his robes for a western jacket, pants and hat to give him the appearance of a businessman. While he waited for a family friend who worked at a government agency to secure documents that would allow him to travel to the border, Geshe Yongdong drank in the sights of an ancient city being transformed into a modern metropolis. Signs of construction were everywhere. Blocks of new apartment buildings to house Chinese settlers were going up along with new buildings for shops to cater to their needs.

After fifteen days in Lhasa he joined two businessmen heading for the border town of Dram, renamed Zhangmuzhen by the Chinese. The eighteen-hour drive took them to the top of the Gyatso La pass at 17,000 feet and the Lalung La pass at 16,500 feet on the Friendship Highway to Nepal. As they crossed Gyatso La, he could see Mt. Everest rising majestically on the western horizon swathed in dense clouds. The immensity of the Himalayas humbled Geshe Yongdong, making him feel small. The car had to stop at numerous checkpoints the Chinese had set along the road. At each checkpoint police armed with automatic weapons checked their credentials and asked about their destination. At each stop Geshe Yongdong felt a pang of fear and apprehension. Could the police somehow have learned of his escape plan? He chanted Bon mantras in his head, all the while smiling and trying to look relaxed. The many checkpoints reminded him of why he was leaving Tibet. He longed to live where travel is free and unhindered.

After crossing the snow-packed Lalung La, the road dropped steeply. In a matter of hours they had descended into the gorge of the Sun Kosi River. The road hugged the walls of the gorge, its sides blanketed in dense semi-tropical vegetation. Streams poured off the gorge sides, one of them splashing onto a protective structure built over the road.

Dram was a cluster of buildings clinging to a steep pitch above the gorge, its single road snaking along the slope from one row of structures to the next lower set. At the bottom of the slope the road ended at the Friendship Bridge connecting Tibet to Nepal. Here goods were unloaded from Chinese trucks and loaded onto Nepalese trucks. Freedom lay a short walk across the stone bridge to the Nepalese town of Kotari. There Geshe Yongdong could buy a bus ticket for the four-hour ride to Katmandu, a tantalizing possibility out of reach to nearly all Tibetans. Except for a privileged few, Tibetans were not allowed to leave the country. The border was closely watched by both the Chinese and the Nepalese. Both countries constantly patrolled the border for Tibetans crossing into Nepal. The only way to avoid the patrols was to take the most difficult and dangerous routes, bypassing Dram and crossing the Himalayas. Only Nepalese guides knew those routes and they took the risk for a price. Getting out of Tibet meant putting his life in the hands of a stranger. Geshe Yongdong had heard stories of guides accepting pre-paid fees and disappearing or abandoning their clients deep in the mountains.

The businessmen delivered Geshe Yongdong to his cousin, who promptly served him a cup of black salted tea heavily larded with yak butter. There he met Lodu Gyawo, another escaping Tibetan friend, who had accepted his cousin’s hospitality and would join Geshe Yongdong and other Tibetans in the escape attempt. The cousin had arranged for a guide to meet them and the other Tibetans the next morning. The guide would receive partial payment of 5,000 Nepalese rupees, or about $150 at the time, in cash and the balance for each person when they arrived safely at the Tibetan Refugee Center in Katmandu. The money would be released only after Geshe Yongdong and his guide each signed a Red Cross document stating he had arrived safely. The guide would return by bus to the border where he would receive payment after presenting the document. Geshe Yongdong took no money with him because of the possibility he could be robbed by bandits who prey on refugees. He left everything of value with his cousin, who would send it on to the refugee center with a businessman who had border crossing privileges.

Geshe Yongdong and Lodu Gyawo met their guide at a thatched shack on the outskirts of Dram at four the next morning in bitter cold. Under his coat the tall guide wore the traditional Nepalese daura knee-length shirt, suruwa tight fitting pants and a soiled dhaka topi, a colorful cylindrical cloth cap. The guide pulled on his long mustache, but said nothing. Geshe Yongdong would never learn his name.

Nine other refugees came to the meeting point, all monks except for a single layman. All had exchanged their robes for western clothing. The guide spoke a smattering of Tibetan, but only in the Lhasa dialect. Only Lodu spoke the Lhasa dialect. He would act as a translator during the trip, although he did not always understand what the guide was saying. Perhaps because of the language barrier, the guide made no effort to warn them about possible dangers or give them any travel advice. As soon as all his charges were assembled, they set off into the mountains without a word. One of the refugees was older, perhaps sixty, and had walked nearly all the way from Lhasa because he had been unable to obtain a travel permit that would have allowed him to take the bus. The journey had taken more than 20 days and his feet were cut and bruised. Another, younger monk also had been unable to obtain travel documents and had walked nearly two months to reach the border. As the group of escapees set out from Dram, they began climbing a steep slope without a trail. The higher they climbed the more bitter the cold. As they ascended, the rocky ground gave way to snow and ice. The route was challenging even for Tibetans accustomed to high altitude and a life of walking up and down mountains. At times they crept carefully along the edge of soaring cliffs. As they negotiated a cliff so high that clouds could be seen below, the older monk, who had been walking in front of Geshe Yongdong, slipped on the ice and his feet went over the edge. Geshe Yongdong grabbed the man’s coat and locked his own leg around a protruding rock. The older man dangled for a moment above the chasm before another monk helped drag him to safety.

The near death of one of their party was sobering for the other escapees. Each took greater care as they picked their way through the snow and ice. An icy wind added to their misery. Powdery snow fell incessantly, covering their footprints and making it impossible for patrols to track them. It also occurred to Geshe Yongdong that it would make it impossible to backtrack if the guide abandoned them or they lost sight of him. They walked all day and into the night. At dawn the next day they were still walking. The escaping Tibetans walked for three days without sleep through the snowy mountains. They rested only after they descended below the snow line a few hours before daylight. Cold and miserable, the Tibetans scrounged enough wood from a few scraggly dwarf pines to build a fire under an overhanging rock. Then everyone collapsed in exhaustion and tried to sleep. Despite the exhaustion, sleep was elusive because as they became still they lost body heat and the bone-deep cold made them shiver. Geshe Yongdong’s pants were wet from the snow and soon froze. The group decided it was better to keep moving and the guide set off again. From time to time the guide would mutter something unintelligible to the refugees.

Gradually, Geshe Yongdong began to feel the lethargy associated with hypothermia. He stumbled and fell to the ground. He couldn’t move. He knew that something was terribly wrong. “I say to myself, ‘Wow, you have no luck.’” He thought he would never reach Menri or see the Dalai Lama, who lived in exile a few hours north of Menri. He was certain that he would die on this remote slope in the Himalayas, his frozen body left to thaw in the spring.

One of his fellow travelers had a blanket and wrapped him in it. Geshe Yongdong felt warmer and instantly fell asleep. He awoke about two hours later. His companions were sitting nearby chatting, waiting for him to recover. The blanket and rest revived him. He tried to get up and found that he could move again. They greeted him and asked if he could go on. “Let’s go,” he said. They continued walking, sometimes upslope, sometimes down, as they continued their descent.

After a few hours the guide began walking slower than the Tibetans. Geshe Yongdong sensed that the guide was more affected by the cold and altitude than his clients. Although many Nepalese are renowned for their ability to function at high altitudes, Tibetans have a genetic advantage. A genetic mutation thousands of years ago gave their lungs a superior capacity to extract oxygen from the atmosphere. Geshe Youngdong began walking in front of the guide, making footprints in the snow that the guide could place his feet in rather than struggling to create a new path.

After countless hours of climbing and sliding down slippery slopes, the guide, interpreted by Lodu, offered them a choice: take a shorter, easier route with a higher chance of being arrested by Nepalese border patrols, or a longer, more difficult but safer route. They unanimously voted for the safer route.

By now they could see green vegetation below them and the promise of a warmer altitude. Eventually the guide stopped. It was clear that he had taken them to an area that was too steep to go farther. They raised their voices, asking, “What do we do now?” He motioned for them to be quiet because their voices carried far. Then he turned to retrace his steps and vanished into a fog that drifted in to shroud the landscape as they talked. Several of the group ran into the fog trying to find him, but they were too drained to run more than a few steps. They began to follow his footprints, but after a few minutes small hail stones began to fall, the volume gathering in intensity until the ground was coated with a thick layer of white ice. The guide’s trail was obliterated.

The Tibetans kept walking until they stumbled upon a trail leading into a valley. Discussing their predicament, they doubted that the guide would abandon them and thereby forfeit his fees. They decided that he would probably try to meet them on the trail. Geshe Yongdong and another member of the party volunteered to race ahead of the group and try to meet the guide before darkness fell. As the two moved along the trail they began to encounter more vegetation, signaling a lower altitude. Bushes overhung the narrow trail, showing that it was seldom used. The bushes were wet and water fell onto the pair as they pushed down the trail as fast as they could. Their clothes become soaked as the temperature dropped and dusk began to overtake them. Worried they would be caught too far from the others at nightfall, they decide to return.

They rejoined the group and walked until they found a cave. They took shelter there and tried to sleep. Sleep was difficult for Geshe Yongdong, whose clothes were soaked. He lay shivering on the ground, miserable in the cold. After a while he stopped shivering, but he knew if he remained motionless too long he would succumb to the cold. Some of the group wanted to build a fire, but they were at a lower altitude and sensed they were closer to areas patrolled by the Nepalese military. They finally decided that the warmth of a fire was worth the risk of it being spotted. Twigs were gathered, a fire kindled and they huddled gratefully around its warmth. In the morning there was ice on the ground. By now Geshe Yongdong was in such misery that he was contemplating trying to find his way back across the border. The idea was debated around the fire. Returning was an appealing idea for some, but then it was pointed out that no one knew the way back. Finally, the old monk said emphatically, “No, no, we can go. Just keep going.” The old monk said there was a river ahead and all they had to do was follow the river to India. Geshe Yongdong replied that the river might wind for hundreds and thousands of miles before it arrived in India. Mired in indecision, they were breakfasting on tsampa and tea when the guide reappeared, as if in a vision. He was greeted with laughter as the despair of a few minutes earlier dissolved. They never learned where the guide went or why he left them alone for so long. The guide’s Tibetan vocabulary was too sparse for Lodu to understand his attempted explanation.

The guide was able to make them understand that they must move quickly and be silent. By now they had gone four days with virtually no sleep, so walking was becoming increasingly difficult. They stumbled more than walked. Hours later they stopped by a river and everyone lay on the ground. They rested for about an hour, then the guide rousted them back onto the trail. By the fifth day their food had dwindled to a small amount of tsampa and butter. They were feeling the hunger growling in their bellies when their guide led them to a stone building in a valley. He told them to enter the buildingand remain silent. Inside they sat on a floor covered with dried grass in a windowless structure. Eventually several Nepalese women brought them rice and dahl, a lentil soup that is a staple in Southeast Asia, but unknown in Tibet. The famished travelers tucked into the meal with gusto, slurping it down with great satisfaction. “I tell you, I will never forget how delicious the food is,” Geshe Yondong said.

As they descended, gradually the biting cold was replaced by a steaming heat that wilted the Tibetans, who had never experienced anything like it. For the next several days they pushed through lush, wet vegetation that soaked them and tore at their clothing. Leeches dropped onto them from nearly every bush. Geshe Yongdong could see leeches hanging from branches, ready to fall onto their hosts. Leeches latched onto their arms, their legs and any skin surface they could reach. The Tibetans pulled them off and the blood from the wounds ran down their legs and filled their shoes. When they stopped to rest and lay down, the leeches seemed to swarm onto them. The leeches caused revulsion but no pain. There was nothing to do but endure.

They crossed several bridges over deep chasms before arriving at a small town. They never knew its name. The guide told them not to speak. Their language would identify them as Tibetan and someone would likely go to the police. The Tibetans were led to a large restaurant and ushered to an upstairs room away from the patrons. At last they could rest comfortably. For three days they did nothing but eat and sleep. They were glad to stay off their feet, which were swollen and covered in blisters. After they were fed and rested they were put on a bus for Katmandu. Again they were told to remain silent during the trip. A word of Tibetan could land them in jail. From the Katmandu bus depot they walked in silence to the Refugee Center, where the first order of business was to sign the documents showing that they had arrived safely. The signed documents in hand, their guide left without a word. The arrival was anticlimactic for the ten escapees, who faced an uncertain future in a strange new land.

Geshe Yongdong got on a bus with several other Tibetans for the two-day ride to Dharamshala, India, to meet the Dalai Lama. In Dharamshala he joined a line of refugees requesting an audience. His name was taken and he waited nearly a week before being ushered into a room with forty other refugees. They all prostrated themselves, then formed a line. Each handed the Dalai Lama a khata and kneeled before him. He draped the khata over their shoulders and gave each a blessing. When Geshe Yongdong’s turn came, he was overwhelmed by a flood of emotion: happiness at finally being able to meet the most revered figure among Tibetans, considered the living essence of the Buddha of compassion, and awe at the sacrifice and struggle it took to get there.

After fulfilling his wish to meet the Dalai Lama, Geshe Yongdong took a bus to Dolanji where he hoped to be admitted into the Menri Monastery to study Dzogchen, an advanced study of Bon that was not taught at his home monastery. At Menri, a collection of rudimentary concrete buildings on a hilltop, he was ushered into the presence of Sangye Tenzin, now known as His Holiness Lungtok Tenpai Nyima, Menri Trizen, the thirty-third abbot of Menri. His Holiness and Yongdzin Rinpoche were instrumental in founding the school for monks at Menri. His Holiness would decide whether Geshe Yongdong would be admitted.

His Holiness asked Geshe Yongdong about his goals in India. Geshe Yongdong answered that his first was to meet the three masters: the Dalai Lama, His Holiness and Yongdzin Rinpoche. His second was to study and practice Dzogchen. His third was to learn English.

Unaware that he was speaking to someone who had earned a geshe degree, His Holiness seemed amused that the apparently rustic young man before him wanted to tackle a subject so difficult that it typically needed years of preparation. He explained that Dzogchen was not for beginners and years of study would be needed before undertaking it. Only then was it clear to Geshe Yongdong that His Holiness did not know he had earned a geshe degree in Tibet. A monk with a geshe degree would normally appear before an abbot dressed appropriately in the red robes of his profession. The abbot could only assume that the man before him in pants and shirt was not a monk. For a layman to ask to study Dzogchen was like an elementary school student asking to be admitted into a doctoral program. Geshe Yongdong hastened to explain that he had completed his geshe degree in Tibet. They had a good laugh about the misunderstanding and Menri Trizen admitted him without delay. He also offered to personally instruct Geshe Yongdong in English.

Geshe Yongdong would spend seven years in India before moving to Canada. He now lives and teaches Bon on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and travels worldwide to teach. He would like to return to Tibet someday, but so far Chinese policy prevents him from doing so. He is not sure whether he will ever be able to return to his homeland, but he is following the Bon practice of letting go of earthly desires. The practice allows him to be content. “I am very happy wherever I am and whatever I am doing with teaching for the benefit others,” Geshe Yongdong said. Geshe Yongdong is founder and director of the Tibetan Bon Buddhist Society – Sherab Chamma Ling in Canada. ⁠

Geshe Yongdong

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