Gelek Rimpoche (1939-2017) is one of the great Tibetan Buddhist masters and scholars of the 20th and 21st Centuries who came to the West and taught extensively in English.
Born in Lhasa, Tibet, in 1939, Gelek Rimpoche was recognized as an incarnate lama at the age of four. Carefully tutored from an early age by some of Tibet’s greatest living masters, Rimpoche gained renown for his powers of memory, intellectual judgment and penetrating insight. As a small child living in a monk’s cell with no electricity or running water, and little news of the outside world, he had scoured the pictures of torn copies of Life Magazine for anything he could gather about America.
Among the last generation of lamas educated in Drepung Monastery before the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet, Rimpoche was forced to flee to India in 1959. He later edited and printed over 170 volumes of rare Tibetan manuscripts that would have otherwise been lost to humanity. Rimpoche was also instrumental in forming organizations that would share the great wisdom of Tibet with the outside world. In this and other ways, he played a crucial role in the survival of Tibetan Buddhism.
He was director of Tibet House in Delhi, India and a radio host at All India Radio. He conducted over 1000 interviews in compiling an oral history of the fall of Tibet to the Communist Chinese.
In the late 1970’s Rimpoche was directed to teach Western students by his teachers, the Senior and Junior Masters to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From that time until his death, he taught Buddhist practitioners around the world.
In the 1980’s, Rimpoche moved to the United States and in 1988 Rimpoche founded Jewel Heart Corp. (Jewel Heart) in Michigan, having already established Jewel Heart centers in Europe and Asia. Jewel Heart served as the home base of Rimpoche’s work, though he traveled endlessly, including to the other Jewel Heart centers until the last years of his life.
Rimpoche was particularly distinguished for his thorough familiarity with modern culture, and special effectiveness as a teacher of Western practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism. Recognizing the unique opportunity for the interface of spiritual and material concerns in today’s world, Rimpoche also pursued dialogues with science, psychology, medicine, metaphysics, politics, and the arts.
Rimpoche became a U.S. citizen and lived in Michigan. He passed away on February 15, 2017.
When Rimpoche died, he left collected works which arguably are the largest, or one of the largest collections of authentic Tibetan Buddhist teachings in English of a Tibetan master.
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