Geshe Tenzin Chodrak (Dadul Namgyal), 64, has been missing for over a week from Sravasti Abbey, an American Buddhist community in rural eastern Washington State. Geshe Tenzin, commonly known as Geshe-la, was last seen when he went for a walk on the evening of 7 November on the abbey’s 121-hectare property. After extensive efforts, Pend Oreille County Sheriffs Office said it had ceased the ground search while volunteers continued their efforts.
Geshe-la had become the abbey’s first male teacher earlier this year. He has been a monk for more than four decades and was seen as a welcome leader to help the abbey’s burgeoning community of monks.
Before moving to Sravasti Abbey, Geshe-la was affiliated with the Atlanta-based Emory University Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-based Ethics. He also served for 13 years as the senior resident teacher for Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta. There he helped to formulate a science curriculum for Tibetan monastics. The move to Sravasti was meant to act as a semi-retirement for the monk.
A search began last week, immediately after he was noted as absent from a puja ceremony. The local authorities used dogs, drones, and a helicopter in their efforts to locate him. Depending on the direction of his walk, he could have ended up in one of several large, heavily wooded areas, or he might have come across and followed one of the logging or residential roads that crisscross the surrounding area.
“We were all surprised. We all were very concerned,” said Ven. Thubten Chonyi, a senior Buddhist nun at the abbey. “He’s a wonderful scholar, a wonderful teacher, and an excellent practitioner.” (KXLY)
Discussing his disappearance, Chonyi said: “We assumed somewhere along the line his walk yesterday. He walked some places that he didn’t know, or he walked some places, who knows if he fell or something.” (KXLY)
Despite the suspension of the official search, volunteers, including a professional tracker, persist in their efforts, sharing updates on social media.
Ven. Sangye Khadro offered guidance to the Sravasti Abbey community on utilizing the Dharma in such difficult times:
It doesn’t help to let the mind get carried away with unhappy thoughts and worries. It’s better to accept the situation and you can always do things on the spiritual level. We can always do prayers and practices and meditations, so there’s things like that we can do which are much more productive and much more helpful than useless worries and fears and anxieties.(The Spokesman Review)
Ven. Thubten Chodron, the founder of the abbey, said in a video released on 11 November: “Gesha-la has years and years and years of experience practicing the Dharma, and in those kind of situations he would go to doing the taking and giving meditation and he would do that the whole night long and just do taking and giving taking and giving.” She added: “If you’re thinking of him suffering a lot yeah, have faith in his training.” (Religion Unplugged)
Buddhist communities worldwide, including Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta and Maitripa College in Oregon, have been engaged in prayers and special services for Geshe-la. A post updated on 15 November on the Sravasti Abbey website noted that the search continued.
The public is urged to call the sheriff’s office at (509) 447-3151 if they hear or see anything relevant to the case. Posters featuring Geshe-la’s image have been put up in the area around the abbey where hunters and hikers may encounter them.
Pend Oreille County sheriff asks for public’s help to find missing monk (The Spokesman-Review)
Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office searching for missing 64-year-old monk (KXLY)
Search Suspended For Missing Monk From Washington Monastery (Religion Unplugged)
Pend Oreille County Sheriff Asks For Public’s Help to Find Missing Monk (Spokane Favs)
News about our beloved Geshe-la (Sravasti Abbey)
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