"Geshe la" as his students call him, is currently the resident teacher and spiritual director of the Indiana Buddhist Center. Jinpa Sonam is a Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy Scholar, and holds a Geshe Lharampa degree, the highest degree available in the Gelug school of Buddhism, from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in south India.
Geshe-la was born in 1955 at Ladhak Zhangskar, Tibet (now in Indian territory). His father Ngawang Rabgay and mother Dolma Palzom had five children including him. In 1967, he became a monk at a local monastery in Ladhak called Thak-Ri-Mo Monastery, which follows the Kargyu tradition. (In Tibetan Buddhism there are four major schools: Kargyu, Nyingma, Gelug and Sakhya). He studied at this monastery for six years.
Then in 1973 as a novice, he joined the Drepung Gomang Monastery, which follows the Gelugpa tradition, and is located near the town of Mundgod in southern India. At Drepung Gomang, he spent sixteen years studying all of the five different levels of intensive Buddhist texts and philosophy.
For three years from 1993 to 1996, he worked as the chanzoe (administrator) of the monastery. After finishing his responsibility as chanzoe, he continued the study of the texts and philosophy of Buddhism. In 1999 he passed the Gelupa Board Examination and was honored with the Geshe Lharampa Degree, comparable to a Doctorate of Philosophy.
In the same year, he was appointed, along with three other monks, to travel to the United States and take residence at the Tibetan Culture Centre (TCC), in Bloomington, Indiana. There, he taught Buddhism to people in the area, before returning to India.
Through the infinite kindness of Hee-Soon Blanchet and George Soister, he returned to the United States where he became a resident teacher at the Gomang Meditation and Dharma Center of Independence, Kentucky, before coming to Indiana to found the Indiana Buddhist Center in 2003.