Gyuto Monastery: Only seventy-five monks survived to rebuild a monastery in India.: Becoming Minnesotan

Thupten Dadak.
  • Name - Thupten Dadak
  • Age at interview - 52
  • Gender - Male
  • Generation - First Generation American / Immigrant
  • Date of Interview - 07.26.2005
  • Gyen Gendun Kalsang and other monks.
    Thupten Dadak with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Oral History Office files.

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    Essential Question

    Life in the Old Country: What makes a country a person’s homeland?

    Traditions & Values: What makes up “culture”?

    Words to look for


    Background Information

    The Buddhist religion is a very important part of Tibetan life.  A monk is a person who has committed to living a life of faith and living in a monastery. 

    The monasteries are not only the home for monks, but also are a central part of the community because they contain colleges for higher learning and protect ancient artifacts and texts.

    Lhasa was the capital of independent Tibet and several large monasteries were located there.  When the Chinese invaded Tibet in the 1950s they wanted to suppress Tibetan culture and force the people living there to accept Chinese culture.  In 1959, two of the largest and most important monasteries in Lhasa were destroyed by the Chinese. Many monks were publicly executed, forced into slave labor, or deported.  

    The monks who survived the destruction of Gyuto Monastery opened a new monastery in India.  Currently there are over 500 monks there who continue to study and practice Tibetan Buddhism. 

    To learn more about Tibetan history and culture, visit our Tibetan Community page.

    • Chapter 1

    Download Thupten Dadak 1
    2:53 Minutes | 2.77Mb


    Narrator: Thupten Dadak (TD)

    Interviewers: Tsewang Sangmo Lama (TL) and Charles Lenz (CL)

    TL:  Can you provide a history of the monastic institution that you were in?

    TD:  The monastery is called the Gyuto Monastery, which is a very well-known monastery. Especially, they are specialized for rituals and chanting. Especially, they do provide service for His Holiness, as well as Tibetan government. It is located in Central Tibet in Lhasa.

    Then, since occupation by Chinese, only seventy-five monks who were able to come out from Tibet, 1959, then they rebuilt the monastery in India. Before the Chinese occupation, the monastery has almost 900 monks. Only seventy-five monks are survived and able to escape and rebuild a monastery in India. So I got opportunity to go to that monastery and study.

    TL:  What is a typical day like in a monk’s life?

    TD:  It’s a very busy life, because, at the young age, you have to memorize all the Buddhist text, many, many pages. After they are qualified to giving a test, exam, then they able to enter the monastery. Then you have to perform a lot of rituals, and you have further studies.

    TL:  What was your favorite part of being a monk?

    TD:  Favorite part of a monk is simplicity.

    TL:  What do you miss about being a monk?

    TD:  Simple life.

    TL:  What else did you do besides—?

    TD:  While I was in the monastery, I did service for assistant of all the monastery in charge. At the time, I would come out of school and we are few of them can read or write English as well also speaking Hindi. So we are very much helping with all the monks, how to rebuild the monastery in India.

    CL:  How old were you when you entered the monastery?

    TD:  Probably, I’m fifteen years old.

    Related Glossary Terms


    Adjective:  Of, relating to, or practicing Buddhism.

    Noun:  A practitioner of the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.


    Noun:  Type of singing done generally without instruments and harmony that requires the repetition of the same spoken words.


    Noun:  A language spoken in the Northern States of India. Also spoken in Fiji, Guyana and as a second language by Indians throughout India and in many other countries.

    His Holiness

    A title given to the Dalai  Lama, the supreme head of Tibetan Buddhism and spritual leader of the Tibetan people.


    Noun:  An established organisation, especially one dedicated to education, public service, culture or the care of the destitute, poor, etc.


    Noun:  Place of residence for members of a religious community (especially monks).


    Adjective:  Of or relating to monasteries or monks.


    Noun:  A male member of a monastic order who has devoted his life for religious service.


    Noun:  The control of a country or region by a hostile army.


    Noun:  A chance for advancement, progress, or profit.


    Adjective:  Meeting the standards, requirements, and training for a position.


    Noun:  A repeated set of actions, often religious in nature.


    Minnesota Historical Society. Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Recent Immigrants and Refugees. September 2010. Institute of Museum and Library Services. [Date of access].
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