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Our Lineage and Teachers

Our Spiritual Leaders

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He is recognized throughout the world as a leading proponent of human rights and world peace. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and accepted it on behalf of the oppressed everywhere, and all those who struggle for freedom. His Holiness follows the life of a Buddhist monk, often saying "I am just a simple Buddhist monk - no more, nor less." He is an outstanding example of how to live a simple, happy, spiritual life in these complicated, stressful times.

Find out more about His Holiness and the people of Tibet.

Lama Thubten Yeshe

Lama Thubten Yeshe was born in Tibet in 1935. At the age of six, he entered Sera Monastic University in Tibet where he studied until 1959, when as Lama Yeshe himself has said, "In that year the Chinese kindly told us that it was time to leave Tibet and meet the outside world." Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, together as teacher and disciple since their exile in India, met their first Western students in 1965. In 1974, the Lamas began touring and teaching in the West, which would eventually result in the FPMT. Lama Yeshe died in 1984.

Find out more about Lama Yeshe.

Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche

Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, FPMT's Spiritual Director, is the reincarnation of the Sherpa Nyingma yogi Kunsang Yeshe, the Lawudo Lama. Rinpoche was born in 1946 in Thami, not far from the cave Lawudo, in the Mount Everest region of Nepal, where his predecessor meditated for the last twenty years of his life. He began teaching courses on Buddhism to Westerners in 1965, along with Lama Yeshe. They founded several centers that eventually became the building blocks of the FPMT. As of December 2001, there are 132 FPMT centers and projects worldwide.

Find out more about Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

Teachers at Kadampa Center

Geshe Gelek Chodha

Geshe Gelek

Resident Teacher

Geshe Gelek Chodha was born in Sikkim, the oldest of five children. At the age of seven, Geshe-la went south to live at Sera Jey monastery and become a monk. He achieved the degree of Geshe Lharampa in 1997, continuing on to the Gyume Tantric College to learn the intricacies of tantric rituals. At the suggestion of his classmate, Yangsi Rinpoche, Geshe-la was requested by Lama Zopa Rinpoche to come to Kadampa Center and be our resident teacher. Since his arrival in 1999, we have been privileged to have Geshe-la as our spiritual friend while he teaches us the Buddha Dharma with sincerity, humor, and patience. In response to Kadampa Center's request for a long life prayer for Geshe Gelek, Khen Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Delek, one of Geshe Gelek's closest teachers, recommended that we recite at least 200,000 Tara mantras annually and dedicate them to Geshe Gelek's long life. We will be reciting these regularly at the Center, and invite those who feel a close connection to Geshe-la to recite mantras on their own.

Geshe Palden Sangpo

Geshe Sangpo

Assistant Teacher

Geshe Palden Sangpo was born in 1972 in Kham Karze, eastern Tibet. He left his hometown at the age of 12 and  crossed the Himalayan mountains on foot to be educated in Sera Jhe Mahayana Monastery in southern India. He received his novice vows in 1987 from Gaden Tripa Lobsang Nima at Drepung Monastery. In 1995, he received his full ordaination vows from His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Sera Monastery. After 17 years of studying the five major Buddhist texts at Sera Jhe Monastery, he graduated as one of the youngest people ever to receive a Geshe degree. At the guidance of his teacher, Sera Jhe abbot Geshe Lobsang Delek,  Geshe Sangpo then went to Gurmey Tantric Monastery for a one year course of study on tantra. After completing this course, he returned to Sera Jhe Monastery and was elected to a three year position as the Administrator of Sera Jhe Healthcare Community.

Ritual practice, particularly Haya Girva ritual practice, is Geshe Sangpo’s area of expertise. For five years he was one of the leaders of the Haya Girva practice group in Sera Jhe Monastery. In 2008, Geshe Sangpo moved to Raleigh North Carolina where he teaches several classes and provides guidance on ritual practice at the Kadampa Center, FPMT. He has lectured on the topic of Tibetan Buddhism and its rituals at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University as well as many smaller schools such as Elon College, Meredith College, University of North Carolina-Asheville and Winston Salem State University.

Robbie Watkins

Robbie Watkins

Director and FPMT Registered Teacher

Robbie Watkins first studied with Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Kopan Monastery in 1980. He became a member of Kadampa Center in 1993. After serving as Spiritual Program Director, he became Director of the Center in 1998. He is involved in leading Discovering Buddhism. During his spare time, he works as a family physician in Cary.

Venerable Tendron

Venerable Lhundub Tendron

FPMT Registered Teacher

Ven. Lhundub Tendron has been coming to Kadampa Center since 1998. Following Lama Zopa Rinpoche's advice, she ordained with Geshe Sopa in 2002. She joined the Chenrezig Nuns Community at Chenrezig Institute in Australia to develop as a nun and study. Ven. Tendron completed the FPMT Basic Program at CI in 2007 and, when she is here, assists Geshe Gelek by leading discussion groups for the Basic Program, teaching Sunday Dharma when Geshe-la is away, lamrim classes and Discovering Buddhism.

Ven. Tendron is currently back in Australia continuing her studies.

Stephanie Smith

FPMT Registered Teacher - Discovering Buddhism

Stephanie "Steep" Smith first attended the Kadampa Center in 1997. She hosted Geshe Gelek in the top floor of her home from 1999, when he first arrived in NC, until 2008. In her professional life, she was trained as a clinical social worker and works as a family mediator.

Our Lineage We are part of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) www.fpmt.org, an international family of city and retreat centers, monasteries, publishing houses, hospices, and healing centers who share our purpose. Our organization is based on the Buddhist tradition of Lama Tsongkhapa of Tibet as taught by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and by our founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe, and our spiritual director, Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche. In addition to these FPMT teachers, sangha and senior students lead classes under Geshe Gelek’s approval.