Lakha Lama, born Thupten Dorjee in Tibet in 1942, was recognized as a tulku, a reincarnation of the previous Lakha Lama of Bathang, at the age of five. He was enthroned as the 20th Lakha Lama and became the spiritual leader of more than 50,000 people in Eastern Tibet.
In 1959, Lakha Lama fled to India and was later elected as a Member of Parliament for the Tibetan Government in Exile under H.H. Dalai Lama. He served as an MP for five years, until he came to Denmark in 1976.
As a refugee, Lakha Lama experienced losing everything. He has made practical use of Buddhist philosophy and its knowledge of the human mind and its deep-seated resources. When Lakha Lama passes on this wisdom, it is not only knowledge from his philosophical studies, but personal lived experience.
Lakha Lama has always been deeply involved in cultural and humanitarian projects. Among other things, he is the founder of Tibet Charity and spiritual leader of two Buddhist centers, Phendeling in Copenhagen and Ösal Ling in Aarhus.
Although Tibet Charity, Phendeling and Ösal Ling share Lakha Lama as their leading figure, they are independent organizations with their own boards and purposes.
Tibet Charity is a Danish/Tibetan humanitarian aid organization run entirely by volunteers, so 100% of donations go to Tibetan refugees.
Phendeling, Center for Tibetan Buddhism, is an association that has created a non-sectarian Buddhist temple space in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ösal Ling is likewise a Tibetan Buddhist center in Aarhus, Denmark.
From 1971 to 1976, Lakha Lama was an elected member of parliament in the Tibetan Government in Exile under H.H. Dalai Lama. Lakha Lama was the initiator and organizer of H.H. Dalai Lama’s visits to Denmark in 1996, 2000, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2015.
During visits to his hometown of Bathang in eastern Tibet in 1989 and 2005, Lakha Lama gave teachings and blessings to congregations of up to 30,000 people.
Founder and former chairman of the Tibet Charity
Spiritual head of Phendeling, Center for Tibetan Buddhism, Copenhagen, Denmark
Spiritual head of Ösal Ling, Tibetan Buddhist Center, Aarhus, Denmark
Participated in the following TV broadcasts, all of which have been shown on DR-TV:
Commentator for the TV-news on H.H. Dalai Lama’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize
“Lakha – the life of a Tibetan Lama”
“The Art of Dying”
“With Other Eyes”
“Conversations with God”
“Lama in Exile” (also broadcast as “Lakha Lama 2860 Söborg”
“To be or not to be”, chronicle in Berlingske Tidende
“Brondums Encyclopedia” (2 chronicles)
“Passions”, interview by Peter Övig Knudsen
“Danish Without Tears” Politiken’s Publishing House
“Angels in Denmark”, interview by Valentine Laage, Höst & Son
“Tibetan Hearts”, chronicle in photo book by Marianne Leth
“Simply Sharing” reprinted in Danish in 2019 under the title “The Simplicity of Sharing”
“The modern efficient stressed man is capable of so much and has so much. What we lack and long for is peace of mind. My path to finding a little more peace has been through Buddhism and not least through the quiet and humorous teachings of Lakha Lama.”
– Ole Michelsen, author, editor of Bogart (DR-TV) – Denmark
“What is special about Lakha Lama is that he is one of those people who is so good at being Lakha Lama that I get such a longing to be Flemming Pless. Lakha Lama has an expanding effect on me and those I know who have met him. You risk being taken seriously all the time. Not bad for our time. Therefore, Lakha Lama is a good sparring partner in the meeting of interfaith. He always has a strong will to understand others. There is no doubt that Tibetan Buddhism has a distinguished ambassador in Denmark with Lakha Lama.”
– Flemming Pless, minister at Christian’s Church – Denmark
“As I am working in an international company with people from many different cultures, I found my meeting with Lakha Lama to be of a great assistance in my own understanding and acceptance of other people and their cultures. His liking of interacting instead of lecturing fits me very well! As a person, he represents to me the simplicity he speaks about.”
– Benny Gunnarsson, Quality Manager, IKEA Hong Kong Ltd.
“Meeting Lakha Lama always provokes new thoughts. Engaging, inspiring, new perspectives to move forward with. It is simple advice and guidance, with incredible depth.”
– Birgit Off, coach and course organizer, Sweden
“Lakha Lama understands, as few do, to focus on the essentials. It is a pleasure to hear how clearly and sharply he articulates himself. Lakha Lama possesses an impressively practical and down-to-earth insight into human life and the human mind. His words create a good foundation for action in a busy and hectic everyday life.”
– Peter Hallum, Product Manager, Coop-Denmark
“When I met Lakha Lama I found a man so responsive, open and kind, that I instantly realized I had met someone who had a few things to teach me. Since then, I am learning.”
– Gerrit Otterloo, Ph.D. author and retired associate professor, Sweden
By Madam Pia Kryger
In 1942, a boy was born as the third son of a poor farming family in the village of Mar-kham in eastern Tibet. His father was a silversmith and the family also had a small farm with sheep and goats that the boys looked after as shepherds. His mother was recognized by the locals as a wise woman who could tell the future by looking into a silver mirror. The story doesn’t tell us if she could see what the future held for her little boy. He was named Thupten Dorjee by his parents. When he was just four years old, the future Lakha Lama began to go with his big brother Jamphel up the green ridges around their home to look after the family’s animals.
One morning Thupten Dorjee made three dough balls of tsampa (roasted and ground barley flour). He placed the balls on the mantelpiece in the kitchen and told his mother that it was food for some guests he would have later. In the evening, three travelers showed up and asked for shelter. There was nothing unusual about this; the distances are great in Tibet and travelers have to seek shelter in private homes. Little Thupten Dorjee ran to meet the strangers and greeted them by their names before they even had time to introduce themselves, and to the great astonishment of his parents the child said some words in a Bathang dialect that the family did not speak. The guests watched the little boy with great interest, but did not tell his parents the real purpose of their journey, which was to find the new incarnation of the 19th Lakha Lama who had died some years before in Bathang, a three-day journey North-East from the family’s home.
After a year, the travelers returned to Mar-kham and told the parents that their youngest son was the reincarnation of the Lakha Lama of Bathang. At the age of five, he was enthroned at the Lama Palace and now had to replace his tattered shepherd’s clothes with the finest silk brocade.
A difficult time followed, during which he was separated from his parents and had to follow the strict monastic discipline.
In 1949 Tibet was invaded from the east by China and Lakha Lama had to flee to the capital, Lhasa, in Central Tibet. This was a traumatic experience for him that still brings tears to his eyes. His escape was planned in the deepest secrecy by officials of the Lama Palace. Even his parents were told nothing. Lakha Lama was not allowed to say goodbye to them and never saw his parents alive again. He still remembers with great sadness the sound of thousands of people crying after he and his entourage had crossed the river and the people of Bathang discovered that their lama had left.
For the next 10 years Lakha Lama studied at the large Drepung Monastery University in Lhasa, where he had the same teacher as His Holiness The Dalai Lama. This teacher, Abbot Pema Gyentsen Rinpoche, was like a loving father to him, but another teacher was very strict and humiliated his students on a daily basis. Lakha Lama simply believes that this harshness helped him develop deep patience.
In 1959 Lakha Lama had to flee from Tibet to India at the same time as His Holiness The Dalai Lama. During the escape, the young lama came close to death several times. He and some other monks ran up into the mountains when the bombing of Lhasa began. The ground shook beneath them and the city was covered with dust and smoke. The party had not had time to pack clothes suitable for the cold Himalayan mountains they would have to cross, or to bring food. They had to wade through icy rivers where sharp ice flakes floated in the strong currents and cut their skin. Their clothes began to cling to their bodies and become cold heavy burdens as their journey continued. Eventually the party came to some small villages where they were given food and blankets, but then quickly had to continue their flight. High up in the mountains the frost was so biting that Lakha Lama could hear the sound of frozen skin cracking on his face and he lost consciousness in the thin air. He wanted to give up and told the others to continue without him, but they would not. Eventually, Lakha Lama managed to mobilize his final strength to continue to the border and then across into India.
In Dalhousie in India he caught four life-threatening diseases at the same time: malaria, tuberculosis, meningitis and blood poisoning. The doctors gave him no hope of survival and, still only 20 years old, the young man prepared to die. But that was not to be; miraculously Lakha Lama survived.
During his two-year hospitalization, Lakha Lama did not waste his time – e.g. he taught illiterate fellow patients how to read and write. The patients were in a sanatorium high in the mountains and were not expected to survive. It was just a place where patients could be stored, without exposing others to the risk of infection, until they died. The sanatorium was nothing more than a dilapidated barn, without glass in the windows, and no money had been spent on unnecessary luxury. Medical students practiced painful spinal cord injections on Lakha Lama that gave him a herniated disc, which he had to endure in addition to the four potentially fatal diseases he already suffered from. Despite all these physical ailments, unimaginable for most people, Lakha Lama was able to maintain a bright and clear mind and never identified with his illnesses, instead using his condition actively as a meditative cleansing process. The result was that he was “only” physically ill, but never became mentally broken down or discouraged by his ailments.
After recovering, Lakha Lama studied philosophy for a few years at the University of Varanassi in India. In 1970, he was democratically elected as a Member of Parliament for the Tibetan Government in Exile under H.H. The Dalai Lama and worked diligently to improve conditions for the many Tibetan refugees in India.
In 1976, Lakha Lama came to Denmark, as he always says, by mistake. He was actually invited to attend an international psychology conference in Finland, but was late because the Indian authorities had delayed issuing his travel documents. During a stopover in Copenhagen, he called his good friend Tarab Tulku, who lived here, and was told that the conference was already over, so it would make no sense to continue to Finland. So, he stayed in Copenhagen while his luggage continued on to Finland. Lakha Lama had only the monk’s robe he was wearing and $70. He went out into a shopping street and decided to invest half his $70 fortune in a pair of jeans.
After some time, he got various small jobs, cleaning and painting. Lakha Lama does not feel any job is beneath him and always works with great care, whether he is cleaning toilets or giving philosophical lessons to thousands of people. His sense of identity and dignity does not depend on what work he does, but rather on his motivation and the purity with which he carries out his actions.
Over the years, Lakha Lama has become a recognized teacher in the Nordic countries and many people have sought him out. The wisdom of Lakha Lama’s simple words is deeply rooted in his life experience and can easily be taken to heart.
We have enjoyed our close cooperation as life partners and the value of being able to draw on two cultures, both in our family life and work. For me, meeting and living with Lakha Lama has been the greatest gift of my life. I could not wish for a more loving and caring spouse who, in addition to his deep wisdom and life experience, is also an excellent handyman and has arranged almost everything in our home. As my mother said in 1984, when she saw how Lakha Lama handled our newborn daughter’s diaper changes with great assurance: “It is quite unbelievable what he has learned at that monastery!”
While we have enjoyed the presence of Lakha Lama here in Scandinavia for all these years, there are 50,000 people in Eastern Tibet who have never forgotten that he is their spiritual head and long to be reunited with their lama.
In a time of constant change, willingness to change is crucial, but we need direction and it requires perspective. We gain perspective by seeing our lives mirrored in the unusual and the magnificent. Lakha Lama is one of the most magnificent and unusual people I have met. He combines the best of his tradition with a genuine Western European commitment to the outside world. He knows and understands us, but also sees our lives from above. From the Tibetan heights.
— Peter Bastian, musician and author