Geshe Wangyal and Labsum Shedrub Ling

The following article is from the Winter, 1986 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Labsum Shedrub Ling, Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center is the result of the work of its late founder, Geshe Wangyal.

Geshe Wangyal was a geshe from Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet. In 1955 he immigrated to the United States in order to serve the Kalmuck Mongolian community. He built a monastery in New Jersey in 1958 using money that he earned through teaching during his first years in this country. Beginning in 1962 Geshe-la sponsored Tibetan monk scholars to come to his monastery in New Jersey and assist him in teaching. These monks were tutored in the English language by resident American students. These American students in turn received classes in Tibetan Buddhism and language. Two of them, Jeffrey Hopkins of the University of Virginia and Robert Thurman of Amherst College, are now leading scholars in Tibetan Buddhist Studies.

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The Ven. Geshe Wangyal

In 1967 Geshe-la bought land and built a new monastery in Washington, New Jersey. Geshela gave his American students a basic knowledge of the many facets of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a very innovative teacher, encouraging his students to follow the teachings in a way that is universal. Although Geshe-la taught in English, he encouraged the majority of his students to speak and read the Tibetan language, and to become translators. Thus his retreat house in Washington became essentially a learning center. In fact, he encouraged many of his students to go on into academia to earn doctorates. A few of those who earned doctorates and are now teaching include: Anne Klein, Donald Lopez, Elizabeth Napper, Daniel Perdue, Joe Wilson and Leah Zahler.

During the last several years of Geshe-la's life he worked tirelessly on his final book which' reflects his main goal of presenting in a clear and precise way the essential topics for new Buddhists of Western countries to understand. This book entitled The Jewelled Staircase will be published this fall by Snow Lion Publications.

The property in Washington, New Jersey now consists of a stupa and three buildings in a beautiful wooded country setting. Just prior to his death, Geshe-la instructed his longtime student, Joshua Cutler, to be his administrative successor and to build the large new temple which was completed in September of 1984 at which time it was consecrated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. His Holiness had also visited the monastery in 1979 and 1981 when he gave discourses on Buddha's teachings to large assemblies there. Since Geshe-la's passing, His Holiness's spiritual advice continues to direct the center's activities.

Nowadays four Tibetan monkscholars are in residence: Geshe Dawa Sangbo, Geshe Thupten Gyatso, Geshe Lobzang Tsetan, and Venerable Thupten Tsepel Taikang.

The center holds public teachings and special seminars. Classes are given by both the resident monk-scholars and the many Western scholars associated with the center.

Please contact the center for further information. The address is Labsum Shedrub Ling, R.D. 1 Box 306A, Washington, New Jersey 07882-9512. Tel. (201) 689-6080.

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