Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi is a Buddhist nun, activist and popular Buddhist retreat leader and teacher. She loves bridging the worlds of Buddhist thought, current events, and the latest research in the field of positive psychology. As well as being passionate about her spiritual practice, she also cares deeply about prison reform, animal rights, social justice and bringing an end to systemic forms of oppression.

Venerable Tenzin first became interested in meditation after reading Be Here Now and Autobiography of a Yogi in the early 1970s. She describes her spiritual path over the next 20 years as “meandering and haphazard” until she bought a one-way ticket to India in early 1991 with the intention of meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the end, she became a student not only of His Holiness, but also of Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche and Lama Zopa Rinpoche during the year she spent studying at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India and Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu, Nepal.

After returning to the US, Venerable Tenzin worked at various positions within Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s organization, the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). She was director of Vajrapani Institute, co-director the FPMT International Office, and coordinator of FPMT Center Services. She also completed several long meditation retreats over a six-year period.

Venerable Tenzin took preliminary ordination vows with Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 2003 and novice ordination in 2004 with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since 2006 she has been teaching at various FPMT centers around the world, in North and South America, India, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand. She is also a visiting teacher for the Liberation Prison Project and has taught in prisons in the US, Colombia, Australia, and New Zealand.

Venerable Tenzin is authorized by the FPMT to teach at both the foundational and in-depth levels, and to lead long retreats. She is also a teacher of the a.r.t. of Fulfillment, one of the secular programs of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom, and in October 2018 will be completing the teacher training for Compassion Cultivation Training, a program developed by Geshe Thubten Jinpa and colleagues at Stanford University. In addition, she is certified teacher of Cultivating Emotional Balance, a secular program using contemplative techniques drawn from Buddhism for managing emotions, developed by Alan Wallace and Paul Ekman at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s request.

In August 2018 she began a year-long training in a prison program developed by Insight-Out called G.R.I.P (Guiding Rage Into Power) at Avenal State Prison. She loves interfaith collaboration and is a volunteer for the Interfaith Speakers Bureau of the Islamic Networks Group.

After many years touring and teaching all over the world, in March of 2013, she became resident teacher at Gendun Drubpa Centre in central British Columbia. In December of 2015, she returned to Vajrapani Institute in California as resident teacher, and in August 2018 she moved to Land of Medicine Buddha in Soquel, a beautiful center in the redwood forest close to the Monterey Bay.


  • HSJ5100.3 Engaged Buddhism and Social Change

Credentials & Accolades

FPMT registered teacher, authorized to teach foundational and in-depth programs, lead retreats, and give refuge, and have certificates of completion for the FPMT’s Discovering Buddhism program and Basic Program

Cultivating Emotional Balance registered teacher, and co-teach this program as a full-time retreat every year at Vajrapani Institute with Eve Ekman and Ryan Redman

The a.r.t. of Fulfillment registered teacher, a new secular program developed by the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom, a project of the FPMT

Training as a teacher for Compassion Cultivation Training, a secular program developed by Stanford University’s medical school

Graduated from the Asian Classics Institute, having completed all eighteen courses of this program

Complete two traditional three-year meditation retreats, between March 2000 and July 2006

Ordained as a Buddhist nun by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in July 2004

Volunteer as a speaker for the Interfaith Speakers Bureau of the Islamic Networks Group in San Jose, CA, an organization that provides both Muslim and interfaith speakers for schools, business, and community events

Co-founder of the Women’s Spirituality Gathering, a project of the Canadian Mental Health Association of Williams Lake, British Columbia

Member of Board of Directors of Liberation Prison Project, 2010-2013, Dharamsala Animal Rescue, 2009-2012, and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, 1995-1999