As a novice monk Lama Choedak was accepted by the great Tibetan master His Eminence Choegye Trichen (1920-2007), one of a handful of monks helping to establish His Eminence’s new seat in exile, at the birthplace of the Buddha, in Lumbini, Nepal. Rinpoche proved to be a particularly bright student and was close to His Eminence, acting as his personal attendant for six years. He completed twelve years of rigorous monastic training under Choegye Trichen’s guidance, including a traditional three-and-a-half year solitary meditation retreat, which was sponsored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Lama Choedak encountered many foreigners coming to Lumbini on pilgrimage to the Buddha’s birthplace. He showed a natural flare for the English language and would go on to interpret for some of the highest lamas of Tibetan Buddhism. He was encouraged by Lama Yeshe to help bring Buddhism to the West and was a resident monk at a Buddhist centre in New Zealand in the early eighties. After some time, Rinpoche disrobed, maintaining his commitment to teaching as a lay Buddhist lama.
In the late Eighties, Lama Choedak settled in Canberra with a wife and young family, taking up a postgraduate scholarship at the Australian National University. Being a qualified Tibetan lama with extensive monastic and retreat training, Rinpoche soon caught the attention of the few Canberrans interested in Tibetan Buddhism. In 1989, Sakya Losal Choe Dzong (SLCD) - the Tibetan Buddhist Society of Canberra - was officially launched and blessed by His Holiness Sakya Trizin in Canberra. In 1996, His Eminence Chogye Trichen came to Australia and launched Rongton Buddhist College at Evatt, ACT.
Rinpoche continues to promote the practice of Calm Abiding Meditation, acknowledging its benefits as a popular secular mindfulness technique, as well as recognising the importance of its Buddhist origins. Since 1996, he has conducted several 8-week meditation courses each year and a 10-day annual residential retreat, which have become some of the most popular events on the Australian Buddhist calendar. In 2001, Rinpoche began training some of his students to facilitate the Calm Abiding Meditation classes throughout Australia and New Zealand, a practise that he continues each year.
Rinpoche has been conducting Buddhist philosophy classes for more than fifteen years on a vast range of subjects and has published several books on the subjects of Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan history. He promotes the Vajrayana Buddhist meditation practices of the Sakya Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, including Ngondro, White Tara and Medicine Buddha. SLCD has hosted many visits from high lamas including His Holiness the Sakya Trizin, His Eminence Choegye Trichen and Her Eminence Jetsun Kushok-la, all who have bestowed empowerments and given teachings. Rinpoche leads regular study and practice retreats on these special meditations and has translated many of the prayers and rituals into English.
Lama Choedak has published A Textbook of Tibetan Language for those learning the language and teaches weekly classes on Tibetan language, as well as conducting an annual Intensive Tibetan Language course.
In 2007, Lama Choedak returned to Tibet for the first time with a group of Western pilgrims. In order to fulfil his late teacher’s wish, he reconnected with Nalendra monastery, the seat of His Eminence Chogye Trichen. From this and subsequent visits, a humanitarian initiative called the Nalendra Project was founded, which has so far raised $180,000. This fund supports the wellbeing and education of 260 monks and nuns and helps maintain the traditional practices in five monasteries and nunneries in Phenpo Valley, north of Lhasa.
His Eminence Choegye Trichen regarded Lama Choedak as his heart son. In 2001, in recognition of his great contribution to the propagation of Buddhadharma in the West, and in particular the promotion of the Tsarpa tradition of the Sakya Lineage, His Eminence bestowed on him the title Tsarpa Lochen Lama Choedak Rinpochemeaning Great Translator of the Tsarpa Tradition.
Lama Choedak Rinpoche is a popular guest speaker and a regular participant on discussion panels during the visits of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Australia. Excerpts from his public talks around Australia have been compiled into his bestselling book, Healing Relationships. Other books by Lama Choedak Yuthok include Original Virtue and Lamdre - Dawn of Enlightenment.
Sakya Losal Choe Dzong – the Tibetan Buddhist Society of Canberra - has grown to become one of the most established Tibetan Buddhist centres in Australia with two residential retreat centres and over a dozen sister centres. Most weekends, Rinpoche conducts residential meditation retreats, workshops and public talks at the invitation of Buddhist centres throughout Australia and New Zealand, including the SIBA Retreat Centre in East Gippsland, Victoria.
Lama Choedak Rinpoche’s profound explanation of meditation and its everyday relevance is renowned for its lucidity, authenticity and humour. His teachings are offered from the heart, and spiced with the richness of his experience, dedication and realisation.