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ABOUT GESHE SONAM DAWA

A brief Biography

Geshe Lharampa (doctorate in Buddhist philosophy) Sonam Dawa the founder of Peace Ling Center was born at Tongdey village, Zanskar in 1975. In 1985 at the age of 10 he joined Drepung Gomang monastic university in south India to study Buddhist philosophy (www.gomang.org). There he studied the five treatises of Buddhist philosophy for 22 years. In 2007 at the age of 32, he successfully completed his final exams, and was awarded the degree of Geshe Lharampa (doctorate in Buddhist philosophy) in the Tibetan tradition. In 2008 he joined Gyuto tantric monastic university in Dharamsala in north India, to study Tantrayana for one year as part of his studies, (www.gyutomonastery.com.)  Click here

In general, the curriculum of study in a philosophy monastery covers five major topics:

1. Valid Cognition, Pramana – 5 years

2. Perfection of Wisdom, Prajnaparamita – 5 years

3. Middle Way View, Madhyamika – 2 years

4. Phenomenology, Abhidharma – 2 years

5. Monastic Discipline, Vinaya – 2 years

These five are studied meticulously by the dialectical method using Indian texts as well as Indian and Tibetan commentaries for a period of sixteen years. On completing this training, a monk may spend an additional year preparing for the doctorate exam which is standard for all of the three great philosophy monasteries, Ganden, Sera and Drepung.

Upon successfully passing this exam, a monk is awarded the degree of Geshe, Doctor of Buddhist Philosophy. The highest level of the geshe degree is Geshe Lharampa. This requires an additional six years of study; therefore, a monk with a Geshe Lharampa degree will have studied Buddhist philosophy for a minimum of 22 to 23 years. If he wishes, upon completing his degree, the geshe may join one of the two tantric colleges, Gyumey and Gyuto, to study tantra and thereby complete his formal studies; or he may return to his local monastery to teach or retire into seclusion to engage in intensive meditation. A monk who has completed a geshe’s training is respected as a fully qualified and authoritative spiritual master worthy of devotion and esteem.

My Motivation behind Peace Ling Center

During my studies I always wondered what I would do after completing my degree. Should I become a teacher, do retreat or community service? I founded the answer during my visited to Zanskar in 1998. So many things came to my notice. Like me, many Zanskari youths were studying in institutes outside the region. When they came to Zanskar, nowhere could they find books to read, studies on philosophy or places for meditation and retreat. There was no organization for conferences about culture, the environment, pollution, local products, natural resources or even the glacier issues in Zanskar. So many different cultures had invaded Zanskar that were totally unfamiliar to the locals.

People have since adapted to these new cultures so now we need to adjust to accommodate the new culture in Zanskar.

I decided to do something about these issues in Zanskar itself. I realised I had to have an organization to carry out all the activities I had in mind, so I decided to found a center in Zanskar and name it the Peace Ling Center. In 2000, during another visited to Zanskar, I settled on a site near my village Tongdey. The place was owned by Tongdey Monastery so I appealed to the monastery for their permission to build Peace Ling Center on the site. Fortunately I was sent an official letter indicating that the majority of monks had given their approval for the centre to be built on the monastery grounds.

Activities

Geshe Sonam Dawa has been a pure vegetarian since 1990 and loves animals very much. He is on the board of directors of Tibetan Volunteers for Animals (TVA) – www.semchen.org.

At present, Geshe Sonam Dawa is one of the administrators of Drepung Gomang Monastic Institute , the great learning center for buddhist philosophy . He will be serving the Monastery for 3 years< December 2010 till November 2013) – www.gomang.org

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