Tribute to Geshe Lama Konchog

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #1684)

Lama Zopa Rinpoche reflects on the qualities of the great yogi Geshe Lama Konchog in this excerpt from Lecture Three of Kopan Course No. 40, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in November-December 2007. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall.

Read more and find teachings by Geshe Lama Konchog on the Teachings from Tibet site.

Geshe Lama Konchog (1927–2001)

Last year or at the beginning of this one, I was supposed to go to Tsum to consecrate the gompa of the nunnery that had been completed. That was the idea. But then a very kind lady who was the benefactor of the center there and of many, many things in Malaysia, said she had to go there to see with her own eyes all these projects she had helped. So, she rented a Russian helicopter that could take fifteen people, and suddenly it happened that we went to Tsum.

It was only then I saw the cave that Geshe Lama Konchog had lived in for six or seven years. It’s above the Milarepa cave. There’s no particular road, only bush on the hill, so besides my two legs I had to use both hands to crawl up there. It’s on the edge of the mountain, quite steep.

Geshe Lama Konchog completely cut himself off from the people. He didn’t eat food [but practiced chulen], which was taking the essence of things like flowers, stones and water. There are different substances, but what I heard was that [his practice] was with wind. I haven’t seen the text. He didn’t eat food at all. And he completely cut himself off from people, otherwise they would have become an obstacle to his practice, to meditating on the path.

He completely cut the eight worldly dharmas, the eight worldly concerns, the attachment clinging to this life, looking for power, reputation and all these things. He really practiced the purest Dharma in his life. Completely cutting his connection with people, he had no disturbances from people. He lived an austere life, like the Buddha did for six years to achieve enlightenment. Similarly, Geshe Lama Konchog did that.

He wore very ragged clothes. Nobody in that valley has seen anybody like him. Some people thought somebody wearing very ragged clothes and looking so poor was very inauspicious, but Geshe Lama Konchog especially chose detachment, living the most austere life in the Kadampa tradition.

When he was walking on the road, people even took dust from under the bed where a husband and wife slept and threw it over Geshe-la. They thought it was very inauspicious to see such a person. Not only that. One day, some people discovered him while they were looking after their animals or something. They went up there and saw a person with very long hair, meditating. They were terrified and they didn’t know what to do, so they threw rocks. Then, the next day or soon after, a group of strong people went to chase him away.

Then he left that cave and went back to a huge rock way on top of the mountain, to another cave that was also Milarepa’s cave, and he lived there. So, for two years he practiced without a house, without any walls, without any shelter. Tenzin Zopa, who was Geshe Lama Konchog’s disciple and who took care of him, came from that area. His family had a very strong connection to Geshe Lama Konchog, so Geshe Lama Konchog took care of the whole family, guiding them.

When I was in the Russian airplane [helicopter?], I was facing the wrong way and was unable to see the tree that Geshe Lama Konchog had meditated under. Tenzin Zopa was facing me and could see it, but even though he tried to show me and I turned around, I couldn’t see it. Geshe Lama Konchog had taken him there and told him the story.

Such a sacrifice in order to practice Dharma! If we had renounced our life, of course, we would have definitely attained the path. Bearing such a sacrifice, bearing hardships like that, dedicating our life, there is no question.

He never told us. Even though he lived there for six years in retreat, living a life of austerity, without eating food—just taking the essence of the wind or something like that—he never mentioned any of that to us, just some stories of how he benefited many people who were crazy, how he was able to help them to heal, things like that.

There was one person, although many other lamas gave them very glorious protection [substances], because they were possessed by spirits, they still became crazy. No lamas were able to help, so in the end they went to Geshe Lama Konchog, who gave that sick person one tiny, blessed thread. Then, they became better. There were some stories like that.

It was generally known that he was a great practitioner with the experience of bodhicitta and some understanding of emptiness, but the way he spoke of his life, it seemed he did not have any very high tantric realizations. It was totally unknown. So, I was very surprised, after being in Tsum and seeing this and hearing the story.

And then, with his relics, five different colors happened, which are connected with the five buddha types. A high lama, one of the top Nyingma lamas, Penor Rinpoche, when he was giving a teaching at Boudha to his disciples, mentioned in public that after cremation, when these different colored relics are produced, that is because the meditator had achieved the path of wisdom, meaning the enlightened five wisdom buddhas. I met a high Nyingma lama who told me that there’s a text that actually describes that.

And again, his incarnation1 as a little child did and said many things that [Geshe Lama Konchog] did in his previous life. That shows the habituation that proves that there is reincarnation, that there is the continuity of consciousness.


1 Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche (b. October 28, 2002), also called Tenzin Nyudrup, is the recognized reincarnation of Geshe Lama Konchog. His early life and discovery as a reincarnated lama is documented in the 2008 film, “Unmistaken Child". [Return to text]