Gelek Rimpoche

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Nawang Gehlek Rimpoche
Gelek Rinpoche.jpg
Gelek Rinpoche, October 2014
Religion Buddhist
Nationality Tibetan
Born (1939-10-26)26 October 1939
Lhasa, Tibet
Died 15 February 2017(2017-02-15) (aged 77)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Senior posting
Title Lama
Religious career
Profession teacher

Kyabje Nawang Gehlek Rimpoche (Tibetan: སྐྱབས་རྗེ་དགེ་ལེགས་རིན་པོ་ཆེ།Wylie: skyabs rje dge legs rin po che/) was a Tibetan Buddhist lama who was born in Lhasa, Tibet on 26 October 1939. His personal name was Gelek; kyabje and rimpoche are titles meaning "teacher" (lit., "lord of refuge") and "precious," respectively. He was a tulku, an incarnate lama, of Drepung Monastic University, where he received the scholastic degree of Geshe Lharampa, the highest degree given, at an exceptionally young age.[1] The 14th Dalai Lama said, "he completed his traditional Buddhist training as a monk in Tibet prior to the Chinese Takeover."[2]

Gelek was a nephew of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso. He was tutored by many of the same masters who tutored the current (14th) Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

In 1959, Gelek fled to India from Tibet and gave up monastic life. He was one of the first students of the Young Lamas Home School. He is the founder and president of Jewel Heart, "a spiritual, cultural, and humanitarian organization that translates the ancient wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism into contemporary life."[3]

He moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1987 to teach Buddhism. He became an American citizen and founded Buddhist communities in Ann Arbor, Chicago and New York City. [4]

Beat-poet Allen Ginsberg was among the more prominent of Jewel Heart's members. Ginsberg met with Gelek Rinpoche through the modern composer Philip Glass in 1989.[5] Allen and Philip jointly staged benefits for the Jewel Heart organization. Professor Robert Thurman and Joe Liozzo are also Jewel Heart members and frequent lecturers.

Gelek Rinpoche died on February 15, 2017 in Ann Arbor, Michigan after undergoing surgery the previous month.[6][7][8]


  • Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation, (foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama), Riverhead Books, 2001, ISBN 1-57322-196-1
  • The Tara Box: Rituals for Protection and Healing From the Female Buddha (with Brenda Rosen), New World Library, 2004, ISBN 1-57731-461-1
  • Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan: A Reading Course and Reference Grammar (with Melvyn C. Goldstein, Lobsang Phuntshog),ISBN 978-0520076228, ISBN 0520076222


  1. Tworkov, Helen. "A Lama for All Seasons: An Interview with Gelek Rinpoche". Tricycle Magazine. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 
  2. Gehlek, Nawang (2001). Good Life, Good Death: Tibetan Wisdom on Reincarnation. New York: Riverhead Books. pp. Foreword. ISBN 9781573221962. 
  3. "Art and Impermanence". Rubin Museum of Art. Archived from the original on October 8, 2007. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  4. Daniel Silliman (28 December 2017). "A woman who married God, a chess-playing priest and 10 more fascinating religious figures who died in 2017" (web). Retrieved 7 January 2018 – via  published as "Intriguing religious figures who died in '17" (print). The Daily Gleaner. January 6, 2018. p. B7. 
  5. "Lifeline". Allen Ginsberg dot org. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2013-08-18. 
  6. "The Office of Tibet Mourns the Passing of Kyabje Gelek Rinpoche". The Office of Tibet, Washington, DC. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 
  7. Biddlecombe, Wendy Joan (February 15, 2017). "Tibetan Buddhist Lama Gelek Rimpoche Has Died". Tricycle. Retrieved December 31, 2017. 
  8. Meade Sperry, Rod. "Remembering Gelek Rimpoche, Tibetan Buddhist teacher and author (1939-2017)". Lion’s Roar Foundation. Retrieved 31 December 2017. 

External links

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