Our Teachers

The Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet. When he was just two years old, the then Lhamo Dhondup was recognised as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.

Lama Thubten Yeshe: Founder, FPMT

Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935. At the age of six, he entered the great Sera Monastic University, Lhasa, where he studied until 1959, when the Chinese invasion of Tibet forced him into exile in India. Lama Yeshe continued to study and meditate in India until 1967 when with his chief disciple, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, he went to Nepal. Two years later he established Kopan Monastery, near Kathmandu, in order to teach Buddhism to Westerners. In 1974, the Lamas began making annual teaching tours to the West, and as a result of these travels a worldwide network of FPMT Buddhist teaching and meditation centres began to develop. More details of Rinpoche’s life and work can be found on the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive website.

Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche: Spiritual Director, FPMT

Rinpoche was born in Thami, Nepal, in 1946. At the age of three he was recognised as the reincarnation of the Lawudo Lama, who had lived nearby at Lawudo, within sight of Rinpoche’s home. At the age of 10, Rinpoche went to Tibet and studied and meditated at Domo Geshe Rinpoche’s monastery near Pagri, until the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced him to forsake Tibet for the safety of Bhutan. Rinpoche then went to the Tibetan refugee camp at Buxa Duar, West Bengal, India, where he met Lama Yeshe, who became his closest teacher. The Lamas went to Nepal in 1967, and over the next few years built Kopan and Lawudo Monasteries. In 1974, with Lama Yeshe, Rinpoche began traveling the world to teach and establish centers of Dharma. When Lama Yeshe passed away in 1984, Rinpoche took over as spiritual director of FPMT which has continued to flourish under his peerless leadership. More details of Rinpoche’s life and work can be found on the FPMT website.

Geshe Ngawang Samten

Geshe-la was born at Panchamari, MP, India. At the age of nine, he entered the Sera Monastic Institute and took the vows of monk ordination with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Geshe-la completed his studies and attained his Geshe degree at the highest level of a Lharampa, the equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy. He taught as a lecturer in the Gelug tradition at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath. Since 2003, Geshe-la has been the main resident teacher at VI.

 

Ven Thubten Chokyi

Ven Chokyi is the Spiritual Program Coordinator for VI and one of our esteemed teachers. She is also the Director of Liberation Prison Project, a social services project affiliated to FPMT that offers spiritual advice and teachings, as well as books and materials, to people in prison interested in exploring, studying and practising Buddhism. Ven Chokyi is a member of the Women’s Interfaith Network in Sydney.

 

Jampa Jaffe

Also known as Jampa Gendun, Jampa has been teaching Buddhism for over 20 years. American by birth, he was a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for 17 years and studied for over 14 years in India at the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives and the Buddhist School of Dialectics. He spent one year in Thailand, studying and meditating in the Theravada tradition, and in 2005 completed a solitary one-year retreat in Spain. He has been the resident teacher at Buddha House, South Australia and the teaching assistant in the first FPMT Masters Program for Buddhist Studies in Italy.

Voula Zarpani

Voula is our resident translator. She holds a double master’s degree from the Agricultural University of Athens and graduated from the first Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program in Dharamsala, India, in 1995. She has since worked as an interpreter for various Tibetan lamas, in Australia and abroad. From 2011-14, Voula acted as the director of Awakening Vajra Publications. Together with Ian Coghlan, she has co-authored four books, and translated numerous other texts. Read more about Voula here.

Jampa Ignyen (Dr Ian Coghlan)

Jampa is one of our resident teachers. He trained as a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition for 20 years and completed his studies at Sera Je Monastic University in 1995. He is an adjunct research fellow at the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, at Monash University; works as a translator for Canada’s Institute of Tibetan Classics, and holds a PhD in Asian Studies. Read more about Jampa here.

 

Paul Smith: Artist-in-Residence

Paul Smith is an artist and musician living in the beautiful Blue Mountains. He has spent 10 years studying with the master thangka painter, Andy Weber. As well as thangka painting in the traditional style, he also explores other media and cultural influences. Paul’s generative work Serpentine Gesture was selected as Outstanding Entry in the 2015 Culturescape exhibition. Paul has long been associated with Vajrayana Institute and, as artist-in-residence, teaches regularly at the centre on thangka painting.