UC Berkeley student Khenpo Yeshi’s outstanding work in Buddhist Studies has earned him the 2014 UC Berkeley’s Khyentse Foundation Award for Excellence. Professor Jake Dalton described Khenpo as “an unusually independent and interesting thinker who has traveled a truly unique path through the world.” At the awards ceremony in February, Dalton spoke of the two sides of Khenpo’s intellectual life—his grounding in Tibetan culture and Buddhist practice and his interest in historical methods, Sanskrit grammar, and modern western philosophy.
Born in 1969 in Nakchu, China, Khenpo Yeshi walked across the Himalayas to India and Nepal at the age of 20. There he pursued his studies at several monasteries of the Geluk, Kagyu, and Nyingma schools. He completed a three-year retreat under Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and taught Madhyamaka to both monks and westerners at Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu. In 2000 he moved to the United States, and in 2012 he graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a BA in Religious Studies and a concentration in Buddhism. He has just been accepted into the master’s degree program in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies at Berkeley. He is looking forward to furthering his scholarship in Buddhism and Sanskrit. He will also continue to travel to Arizona, Taiwan, and China, where he teaches regularly.
“Khenpo is an amazingly flexible and careful reader of Tibetan, one of the best I have ever encountered,” said Jake Dalton. “He is truly dedicated to learning. He consistently impresses both Alex von Rospatt and myself in our seminars for having read widely in the other chapters that we are not focusing on, as well as all other related commentaries. I think this award will make a big difference for him.”
Since the KF Award for Excellent began in 2010, with the aim of honoring and supporting academic distinction in Buddhist studies, more than 40 students from 10 universities around the world (including 5 from UC Berkeley) have received KF Awards for Excellence in Buddhist Studies.