Last weekend, two important and interesting events took place in two of the major Tibetan Buddhist monasteries that have been re-established in South India.  New abbots of Drepung Gomang and Gaden Shartse monasteries have been enthroned on July 25 and 26 (corresponding to the 4th and the fifth day of the sixth Tibetan month).

Abbot Dhamchoe Yonten
Abbot Yonten Dhamchoe

Khen Rinpoche Yonten Dhamchoe was born in Amdo in Tibet in 1940 and came into exile in 1959. He was among the first 60 monks of Drepung Gomang who took the arduous task of re-establishing the monastery in Mundgod in South India. He received his Geshe Lharampa title in 1984 after a successful completion of the highest level of examinations under the Gelug lineage system.

Abbot Changchup Choeden
Abbot Changchup Choeden

Khen Rinpoche Changchup Choeden was born in northern India in 1966. Having joined Gaden Shartse in 1979 he received his Geshe Lharampa title in 1997. He has traveled widely and is certainly a “modern” monk. He has his own website and a blog, which gives interesting information about his thinking and activities.
He is said to be conversant in Chinese after having stayed in Taiwan for awhile.

According to information on the Gomang website, “The Abbot (Khen Rinpoche) term is of six year and after every six years, a list of nominees for new Abbot is gathered from the monks during the congregation and that is submitted to His Holiness the Dalai Lama via Dept of Religion and Culture.” His Holiness then makes the formal appointment based on the recommendations submitted to him.

While the change of guard at the monasteries have been something that has been happening regularly, this time we see something that indicates both continuity and change, socially speaking.  One abbot is older, was born in Tibet and came to exile as an adult. He has experience of life both in Tibet and in exile.  He can be considered to have had a traditional upbringing and thus represents the “continuity” part.  The other abbot is comparatively young. He is the first among those Tibetans born in exile who have been appointed to such a high position in the history of the three “seats” of Sera, Drepung and Gaden monastic universities. He would represent the “change” part.

After reading his blog postings and hearing him in his initial radio interview, following his enthronement, I can see that Khen Rinpoche Changchup Choeden wants to bring new thinking into the way an abbot handles the responsibilities of the monasteries.

I only wish that in his busy schedule he will find time to update his website and his blog posting. I have enjoyed reading his blog as they give a good insight into his thinking.