Sangha Interview 

Geshe Graham Woodhouse

 

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Please give a brief background of yourself.

I was born into a bourgeois creamy layer family in the middle of England, to proper, loving parents. Whatever teaching I was receiving seemed to be from teachers who were committed, determined and well balanced, so any fallings short are all my own then!

 

How did you meet the Dharma?

All through the staggering kindness of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. A couple of Aussie ladies dressed in cotton saris, ambassadors from the old Manjushri Institute in England’s Lake District, turned up in my home town and kind of reeled me in.

 

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When, where and how were you ordained?

Full ordination by His Holiness in Dharamasala in 1994; getsul ordination the same, three years before.

 

What made you decide to become a Monk?

I wanted to study Buddhist philosophy properly. To me that meant using reasoning and debate in the time honoured way. That required going to a monastery in India and living with monks. It was only fitting that I too should ‘join the Maroonies.’

 

Please tell us briefly about your time training to become a Geshe and the importance of studying.

How can we know what the Buddha taught without studying? In Dharamsala with its stupendous mountain backdrop and bracing climate, it was a great privilege to study long term with the dedicated, learned and masterful teachers I had there, of the generation that fled Tibet at the same time that His Holiness journeyed into exile. It was a great pleasure to study and debate with my Tibetan and Himalayan region schoolmates, in spite of the trauma of exile, so full of fun, so easy going, so bright – and so youthful; it was like living my late teens and twenties over again.

 

What are you doing now?

Trying to get back down to my translation work. Learning a few scraps of Sanskrit to help with that.

 

What has been the greatest challenge in your ordained life? What has been the greatest success?

Challenge: global heating

Success: personally seeing both my parents through to the end.

 

Who is your greatest source of inspiration and why?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama. During my stay in Dharamsala I could attend his more detailed public teachings regularly, so I have developed an appreciation.

 

What advice can you give to those thinking to ordain?

Once ordained, if you do backslide a little, be kind to yourself. But draw a line in the sand.