Indian Exile and living in the West

In 1959, after the suppression of the Tibetan National Uprising in Lhasa by Chinese troops, Rinpoche escaped, according to his administrators' plan, by leaving Drepung monastery for Sangphu in Southern Tibet. From there he left for the Tibetan-Indian border where he met with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His Holiness asked him to join him in exile in India.


Rinpoche finished his Buddhist studies in Dharamsala in Northern India. He received the Geshe degree, a doctorate in Buddhist Psycho-ethical Philosophy, which is equivalent to a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy in the West [Certificate Photo]. From 1964 until 1966 he lived in New Delhi where he directed the Tibet House, an internationally recognized institute for the promotion and preservation of Tibetan and Buddhist culture. It was then that he was invited by the University of Bonn, Germany, to work as a researcher at its Institute for Central Asian Studies, which he accepted.


HHDL Bonn University

Visit of H.H. Dalai Lama at Bonn University, Center for Asian Studies

His main area of interest included Tibetan Buddhist symbols, iconography and Tibetan religious art. He taught courses, as well as supported students and colleagues in their academic research work. He worked there until his retirement in 2004 and published several books connected to his research. A list of publications of his body of work, including academic papers about Tibetan Buddhist art, iconography and symbolism, translations of Buddhist texts from Tibetan into German, as well as explanations for Western Buddhists, in both German and English can be downloaded here.


HHDL and Tibetans at City Hall Bonn

H.H. Dalai Lama meeting Tibetans at City Hall Bonn

As soon as Rinpoche left for Germany, he gave back his monk´s vows. This was not an easy decision to make. However, he envisioned it to be rather difficult to live as a monk in the Western world without the monastic environment. Naturally, there were big changes in his new way of life. He became a regular employee and led a "liberated" life, learning all kinds of chores in day-to-day life that were unfamiliar to him as a former monk in a monastery. He learned to take care of a household with tasks such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, emptying garbage, driving a car, etc., and took a special interest in sewing and carpentry. In 1969 Rinpoche married Norden Pemba with whom he has two grown-up children. His wife says about him "If someone needs him as a teacher, he will teach. If you want him to give a hand as a cook or driver, he is willing."