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Lama Chonam ~ extensive bio

Born in the Golok Ah Kyong region of Tibet in 1964, Choying Namgyal, known as Lama Chonam, entered Wayen Monastery at the age of 14. Under the direction of Khenpo Gonpo Norbu and Khenpo Yeshe Rangdrol, he studied many of the texts central to the Buddhist tradition, among them, Tsongkapa's Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path, Shantideva's Entrance to the Conduct of a Bodhisattva, Ngari Panchen's Three Vows, Atisha's Seven Points of Training the Mind, and Ngulchu Tomay's Practices of the Heirs to the Victorious One. From Tulku Kadag, Lama Chonam received the teachings of the Longchen Nyingthig tradition; from Khenpo Tendzin, the teachings of Avalokiteshvara as well as the vows and instructions for bodhisattvas; and from the rebirth of Kadog Khenpo Jorden, the Dudul Longsal teachings in their entirety.

The great Khenpo Munsel, a direct disciple of Khenpo Ngagchung, one of the most prominent Dzogchen masters of the twentieth century, served as Lama Chonam’s primary teacher. From Khenpo Munsel, Lama Chonam received the complete teachings of the Nyingthig tradition beginning with the preliminary practices, followed by one hundred days of solitary meditation focusing upon the Great Perfection cycle of Cutting Through and Crossing Over, as well as the instructions taken from Jigme Lingpa's Wisdom Spiritual Guide. For a period of three years, Lama Chonam practiced meditation under the guidance of Khenpo Munsel. Following this time of contemplative practice, Lama Chonam received the transmission of Longchenpa's Seven Treasures from Khenpo Munsel.

From Siddhi Tulku, a disciple of Tulku Dodra, Lama Chonam received the Tersar lineage of teachings. From the learned teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche, Lama Chonam received many teachings including a cycle associated with Manjushri. From Kusum Lingpa Rinpoche, he received the Jetsun Nyingthig cycle of teachings. From Khenpo Tsondru, he received the teachings for Collected Works of Patrul Rinpoche and, with Thongphun Tulku, Lama Chonam studied Tibetan calligraphy as well as the Sanskrit alphabet.

Lama Chonam received the teachings of the Precious Treasury of Terma from the fourteenth Mogtsa Rinpoche. At the conclusion of those teachings, Mogtsa Rinpoche honored Lama Chonam by bestowing the title of Khenpo upon him before an assembly of nearly two thousand lamas. Lama Chonam later went to study with the well known scholar Delek Rabgyay; staying with him for several years, he studied grammar, poetry, history, the tenets of various Buddhist schools, and the minor sciences.

In 1990 Lama Chonam left his homeland for India, where he hoped to meet with the Dalai Lama. His hopes met with success and Lama Chonam was able to receive important teachings and words of advice from the Dalai Lama personally. Although he intended to return Golok, in response to the urging of others he came instead to the United States to help cultivate Buddhist studies in North America. Lama Chonam has lived in the United States since that time and became an American citizen in May of 2000.

During the past two decades, Lama Chonam has been teaching Buddhist view and meditation as well as the Tibetan language, learning English, assisting in the work of translation, studied under the guidance of his primary teacher, Dungsei Thinley Norbu Rinpoche. From the time of his youth, Lama Chonam has been strongly inspired by the epic of Gesar of Ling. Lama Chonam comes from the homeland of this renowned Tibetan hero, and he has read extensively in the literature of Gesar and listened to many Gesar stories told by the bards of Golok. Lama Chonam was, therefore, delighted to serve from 1995-1999 as the senior advisor to Robin Kornman of The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and The Tibetan Institute of Literary Studies for the translation of the first three books of the epic poem celebrating and recounting the life of Gesar of Ling.

Lama Chonam has served as advisor and teacher to the Nalanda Translation Committee during the past four years and in 1999 helped to establish the Light of Berotsana Translation Group. He serves the group both as president and teacher, overseeing the translation of classical literature and oral commentary. With Sangye Khandro, he has translated The Lives and Liberation of Princess Mandarava, Yeshe Lama, various writings of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, and Dudjom Lingpa's Troma Cycle of Terma Revelations. Through his work with the Light of Berotsana Translation Group, he hopes to foster the pure translation and establishment of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhist literature in the West.

“The teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha cover a vast territory including philosophy, ethics, medicine, epistemology, and contemplative practice. Having endured for over two thousand five hundred years, they have been translated into many Asian languages and expounded by many learned scholars. The writings of these great teachers are not bound to one culture or one time. They will be beneficial to people everywhere. It is important that we translate them into English skillfully and with great care.”