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Like a Waking Dream: the autobiography of Geshe Lhundub Sopa

Like a Waking Dream: the autobiography of Geshe Lhundub Sopa
Geshe Lhundub Sopa
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From the time he was a child, Geshe Sopa knew he would be a Buddhist lama. He was not picked like other lamas to inherit the estate of a deceased master as a reincarnate tulku. Born the only child of older farmers, he was allowed to become a monk only through personal persistence. He diligently worked his way up through the ranks of his provincial monastery and eventually become one of the most accomplished scholars of the central monastery in the capital, Lhasa, where he even served as the debate partner of the present Dalai Lama. He witnessed firsthand the turbulent political changes in his homeland during the 1950s, and upon the takeover of Tibet by Chinese Communist forces in 1959, he fled over the Himalayas and went into exile in India.

The Dalai Lama chose him in the early 1960s to be part of a delegation sent to the United States under a Rockefeller grant, living first in New Jersey and in 1967 going to Madison, Wisconsin, where he has since lived. There, he began as a lecturer and eventually became a full professor at the University of Wisconsin, training some of today's most well-regarded scholars of Tibetan Buddhism in the U.S. He also founded Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wisconsin, which has played host on numerous occasions to large events with the Dalai Lama, including the first Kalachakra initiation given in the West in 1981. Now retired and nearly ninety years old, Geshe Sopa continues to teach and to publish. This account of his years in Tibet preserves valuable insight and details about a now-vanished world.

"Like a Waking Dream is a fascinating memoir of a well-lived life, the story of a poor Tibetan boy who grew up to become one of the most eminent Buddhist scholars of his time, and in exile, a major influence on the study of Tibetan Buddhism in America.The bulk of the book is devoted to Geshe Sopa's experiences as a young scholar-monk in Tibet, and as such the everyday details of a way of life now vanished are an invaluable historical record. Geshe-la recounts his story, sensitively edited by Paul Donnelly with the simplicity, insight, and sympathy for human foibles that characterize this great teacher. Anyone with an interest in Tibetan culture and religion will relish this wonderful account."
—Michael Sweet and Leonard Zwilling, authors of Mission to Tibet

"Geshe Sopa is one of the greatest living Buddhist masters of his generation. A consummate scholar and respected university professor, his impact on the establishment of Buddhism (and Buddhist Studies) in the United States cannot be overestimated. This marvelous lifestory, rich in detail and told in his own words, will captivate the hearts and minds of anyone who reads it."
—José Ignacio Cabezón, Dalai Lama Professor and Chair of the Religious Studies Department, UC Santa Barbara

"From the Tibetan Himalayas to the rolling hills of Wisconsin, Geshe Sopa's autobiography will enchant and educate anyone interested in how Tibet and Buddhism have profoundly influenced present day America. Revered and respected world-wide, for his insightful scholarly commentaries, Geshe Sopa's story is filled with warmth, compassion and joy. Little did I know when I first met him as a 19 year old college student in the 60's, that I was in the presence of a Great Tibetan Buddhist Master. His magnificent charm and insightfulness have profoundly affected my life and will yours too. This book is a must read."
—Zorba Paster, host of PRI 's On Your Health and author of The Longevity Code: Your Prescription for a Longer, Sweeter Life

"Geshe Sopa's life story is central to the story of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. In giving birth to generations of leading American scholars of Tibet, he became renowned not just for teaching Buddhist ideas and ideals, but for making them real by personally embodying them."
—John Makransky, Associate Professor of Buddhism, Boston College and author of Awakening through Love
Editor’s Preface xi
Introduction: A Brief History of Tibet 1
1. Life in Tsang 13
2. Early Memories 20
3. The History of Ganden Chönkhor 27
4. The Beginning of My Life as a Monk 32
5. My Relative the Ritual Specialist 36
6. Living the Religious Life at Ganden Chönkhor 40
7. A Young Monk’s First Two Teachers 44
8. Daily Assemblies and Classes 46
9. The Difficulty of Being Away from My Parents 49
10. Completing One’s Basic Education 52
11. My Uncle and His Position in the Monastery 55
12. Sustenance in the Monastery 58
13. The Structure and Schedule of Education
at Ganden Chönkhor 62
14. The System of Philosophical Education 65
15. The Status of Scholar Monks 69
16. The Education of Scholar Monks 71
17. My Teacher Gen Mönlam 74
18. Taking the Kālacakra Empowerment the First Time 76
19. Deciding to Go to Sera 79
20. Getting My Parents’ Permission 84
21. The Journey to Sera 86
22. History of Sera Monastery 90
23. Entry into Tsangpa Regional House and Sera Jé 93
24. Tri Rinpoché 96
25. Geshé Losang Chönden 99
26. Geshé Ngawang Riksal 102
27. Geshé Ngawang Gendün 104
28. Gen Lhündrup Thapkhé and the Pure Monastic Life 106
29. The Monastic Way of Life 109
30. The Disciplinarian’s Lecture 116
31. The Curriculum of Education at Sera Jé 122
32. Studying and Teaching at Sera Jé 124
33. The Structure of Debates at Sera 128
34. The Jang Winter Session 135
35. The Honor of Being Named Rikchung 138
36. The Higher Honor of Being Named Rikchen 143
37. The Different Grades of the Geshé Degree 148
38. The Conferring of the Geshé Degree 151
39. Gyümé and Gyütö Tantric Colleges 158
40. The Reting Affair and Other Troubles 161
41. Being Named Tutor 171
42. Finding Time for Practice 174
43. Phabongkha Rinpoché and His Legacy 178
44. Teachings from Other Great Lamas 183
45. Vajrayoginī Retreat at Phabongkha Labrang 187
46. What I Gained and Lost in Becoming a Tutor 191
47. The Dalai Lama Takes Power and the First Exile 193
48. Gen Lhündrup Thapkhé Is Appointed Abbot of Sera Jé 197
49. A Gradual Transformation 199
50. The Tenth Panchen Lama 203
51. The Dalai Lama Completes His Studies 205
52. The Tibetan Uprising of 1959 209
53. Deciding to Leave Sera 215
54. The Beginning of the Exile 218
55. A Brief Respite and the Long Journey out of Tibet 222
56. Arriving in India 229
57. Beginning Life as a Refugee 233
58. From Assam to Dalhousie 239
59. Learning to Live in Exile 244
60. Trying to Keep Tibetan Culture Alive 248
61. An Attempted Trip to Bhutan 251
62. A Letter from His Holiness 255
63. The Situation for Those Who Did Not Escape Tibet 259
64. Going to America 261
65. Our New Life in New Jersey 266
66. Beginning to Teach in America 270
67. Starting a Dharma Center 275
68. His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s First Visit to Madison 279
69. The First Kālacakra Empowerment in America 281
70. My Return to Tibet 287
71. Meeting the Panchen Lama and the Passing
of Gen Thapkhé Rinpoché 290
72. The Recent Past 295
73. The Future 303
Table of Tibetan Spellings 307
Notes 319
Glossary 325
Select Bibliography 333
Index 339