Thousands in Tibet Mourn Passing of Senior Religious Teacher Trained in Exile

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Geshe Jampel Lobshe is shown in an undated photo.
Photo provided by an RFA listener

Thousands of Tibetan monks, nuns, and laypeople gathered in western China’s Sichuan province this week to mourn the death of a senior religious leader who trained as a young man in exile in India and then returned to Tibet to teach, Tibetan sources said.

Geshe Jampel Lobshe, 53, passed away on Oct. 19 of an unspecified illness after being suddenly discharged from a hospital in Sichuan’s capital Chengdu which had sent him home to die, sources said.

His body has now been taken to Sershul monastery in Kardze (in Chinese, Ganzi) province, where it will remain for five days while members of the clergy and the public pay respects and offer prayers, the monastery’s memorial service committee said on Friday.

Afterward, he will be taken to his family home in Denkhok for a one-day ceremony and then brought to Kaphu Samdrub Ling monastery for further observances before his remains are cremated on Nov. 4, the service committee said.

Relapse came quickly

Speaking to RFA’s Tibetan Service, a relative living in Switzerland said that Geshe Lobshe had sought help for over a year for an illness related to his white blood cells, and had been passed back and forth between an army hospital and civilian hospital as his condition appeared to improve.

“He was hospitalized at a popular army hospital in Chengdu, and was discharged from there after doctors assured him he would be fine following their treatments. But then he had a relapse while at another hospital and had to be admitted to the army hospital again,” RFA’s source said.

“It happened like this, with him being transferred back and forth, several times,” he said.

Geshe Lobshe’s mother and sister, a close disciple, had remained with him during his treatment, but have been difficult to reach for comment, he said, adding that they were offered limited options for treatment and at one point were told by doctors to obtain a “particularly costly” medicine that is unavailable in China.

Speaking this week to the Sershul monastic community, Sershul’s abbot said that though supporters of the popular religious teacher had hoped for his complete recovery, his final relapse had come quickly, sources said.

“On Oct. 19 at around 1:00 p.m., the Chengdu hospital issued an urgent notice saying they could no longer treat him and were discharging him from the hospital, since if he died there they would not be able to give his body away,” the abbot said.

Mass prayer services are now being held at Sershul and in other monasteries across eastern Tibet, “and for now we have heard no reports of Chinese interventions or disruptions of those gatherings,” RFA’s source in Switzerland said.

Also speaking to RFA, Geshe Ngawang Rinchen—a longtime friend and student living at Sera monastery in south India—called Geshe Lobshe an “accomplished and hardworking” spiritual master who had held an outstanding academic record while training at Sera in India before returning to Tibet in 2001.

“He was someone who deeply considered the teachings of [exiled spiritual leader] the Dalai Lama and put them into practice,” Geshe Rinchen said.

“He was a very courageous and bold spiritual leader,” another friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He worked within the Chinese system to make a long-lasting impact in the monastic communities in Tibet by inspiring the monks to study.”

Reported and translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.


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