Karma Phuntsho

Karma Phuntsho
Karma Phuntsho-Aug 2013.jpg
Ura, Bumthang, Bhutan
Known forBuddhist scholar, historian, social worker and founder of the Loden Foundation and Shejun

Lopen Karma Phuntsho is a former monk and Bhutanese scholar who specialises in Buddhism, Tibetan & Himalayan Studies and Bhutan, and has published a number of works including eight books, translations, book reviews and articles on Buddhism, Bhutan and Tibetan Studies. His The History of Bhutan has been called "the first book to offer a comprehensive history of Bhutan in English" and received Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award in 2015.

Early life

He was born in Ura, in the Bumthang district of central Bhutan. He was born as the third child of the Tothchukpo House to his mother who is a scion of Gaden Lam family which traces its origin to Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo, the priest who brought Drukpa Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to western Bhutan. Karma learnt basic Chokey alphabets and prayers from his father, who is an incarnate priest and farmer from the Tsakaling Choje family, a religious nobility which claims descent from Bhutan's foremost spiritual saint Pema Lingpa and Tarshong Chukpo, house of Ura. He attended Ura Primary School until Class III. Because the school did not have Class IV and he was too small to travel, his parents begged the headmaster to keep him in Ura and repeat. The following year, he travelled to Jakar School with a few friends. The headmaster at the new school mistakenly put Karma again in Class III. Karma today humorously claims that he is perhaps the only person who studied in Class III for three years and received first prizes thrice. Karma spent most of his school winter breaks helping the family cow herder in the neighbouring district of Lhuntse.[citation needed]

In 1986, he came to Thimphu and had a short spell at Yangchenphug Higher Secondary School before leaving school to become a monk and study Buddhism at Chagri Monastery. Later, he went to south India to continue his studies spending a year at Sera Monastery then ten years at the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute. Since 1994, he has taught Buddhism and related subjects and has served a lecturer at the Ngagyur Nyingma Institute in Bylakuppe and for two years as an abbot at the Shugseb Nunnery in Dharamshala.[1][2]


In 1997, partly he says because young Bhutanese educated in English looked down on monks even though they were very learned,[3] he joined Balliol College Oxford and read for an M.St. in Sanskrit and Classical Indian Religions under Richard Gombrich, Seyfort Ruegg and Michael Aris. In 2003, he received a D.Phil. in Buddhist Studies from Oxford University.[4] He worked as a post-doctoral researcher in CNRS, Paris and as a research associate in the Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge University. He was also the Spalding Fellow in Comparative Religions at Clare Hall and ran The Historical Study and Documentation of the Pad Gling Traditions in Bhutan project subsequently he spent years creating a digital archive of rare Bhutanese manuscripts. Dr. Phuntsho is the first Bhutanese to receive a D.Phil. from Oxford and the first Bhutanese to become an Oxbridge Fellow. In Bhutan he has founded the Loden Foundation, a charity to promote education and entrepreneurship in Bhutan as well as the Shejun Agency for Bhutan's Cultural Documentation and Research, which later was merged with the Loden Foundation.



  • Karma Phuntsho (2013). The History of Bhutan. Nodia: Random House India. ISBN 9788184003116.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2005). Mipham's Dialectics and Debates on Emptiness: To Be, Not to Be or Neither. Routledge Critical Studies in Buddhism. London: RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0-415-35252-5.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2015). Twilight Cultures. Thimphu: Shejun. ISBN 978-999-36-1104-2.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2015). The Autobiography of Terton Pema Lingpa. Thimphu: Shejun. ISBN 978-999-36-5322-6.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2015). The Biography of Thugse Dawa Gyaltshen. Thimphu: Shejun. ISBN 978-999-36-5323-3.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2015). The Biography of Gyalse Pema Thinley. Thimphu: Shejun. ISBN 978-999-36-5324-0.
  • Karma Phuntsho (1997). ཚད་མའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་རིགས་པའི་ཐེམ་སྐས། [Steps to Valid Reasoning: A Treatise on Logic and Epistemology (textbook)] (in Tibetan). Byallakuppe: Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.


  • Karma Phuntsho (2007). "Ju Mi pham rNam rgyal rGya mtsho: His Position in the Tibetan Religious Hierarchy and a Synoptic Survey of His Contributions". In Prats, Ramon N. (ed.). The Pandita and the Siddha: Tibetan Studies in Honour of E. Gene Smith. New Delhi: Amnye Machen Institute. ISBN 81-86227-37-7.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2007). "The Marriage of the Media and Religion: For Better or Worse". In Karma Ura (ed.). Media and Public Culture:Proceedings of the Second International Seminar on Bhutan Studies (PDF). Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies. pp. 19–30. ISBN 99936-14-41-6.
  • Karma Phuntsho (August 2005). "Shifting Boundaries: Pramāṇa and ontology in Dharmakīrti's epistemology" (PDF). Journal of Indian Philosophy. Springer. 33 (4): 401–419. doi:10.1007/s10781-004-3998-0.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2004). "Echoes of Ancient Ethos: Reflections on Some Popular Bhutanese Social Themes". In Karma Ura; Sonam Kinga (eds.). The Spider and the Piglet: Proceedings of the First International Seminar on Bhutan Studies (PDF). Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies. pp. 564–580. ISBN 99936-14-22-X.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2004). "H.H. Khenpo Jigme Phuntsho: A Tribute and a Translation" (PDF). Journal of Bhutan Studies. Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies. 11: 129–136.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2000). "On the Two Ways of Learning in Bhutan" (PDF). Journal of Bhutan Studies. Thimphu: Centre for Bhutan Studies. 2 (2): 96–126.

Monographs in Classical Tibetan (Choke)

  • Karma Phuntsho (1996). རྫོགས་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་བཅིང་གྲོལ་གྱི་གཞི། [The Ground for Bondage and Liberation in the rDzogs chen Tradition] (in Tibetan). Byallakuppe: Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.
  • Karma Phuntsho (1996). དཔལ་ལྡན་ཟླ་བའི་རང་མཚན་གྱི་གྲུབ་པ་འགོག་པའི་སུན་འབྱིན་རྣམ་གསུམ། [The Three Apagogic Arguments of Candrakīrti against the Proponents of Individually Characterized Existence] (in Tibetan). Byallakuppe: Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.
  • Karma Phuntsho (1995). [A Concise Presentation on the Tenets and Two Truths] (in Tibetan). Byallakuppe: Ngagyur Nyingma Institute.


  • Karma Phuntsho (2010-05-14). "In response to Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse's article". Bhutan Observer. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  • Karma Phuntsho (2006-10-13). "Bhutanese Reform Nepalese Criticism" (PDF). Society Switzerland-Bhutan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-11-29. Retrieved 2014-11-18.

See also


  1. ^ "Karma Phuntsho". Rangjung Yeshe Wiki. Tsadra Foundation. Retrieved 2014-11-17.
  2. ^ "Karma Phuntsho: Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). academia.edu. Retrieved 2014-11-18.
  3. ^ "A Buddhist practitioner who set up The Loden Foundation, Karma Phuntsho believes that Bhutanese society must now be more ethically driven (Interview)". The Raven. 2013-03-08.
  4. ^ "About Dr. Karma Phuntsho". Retrieved 2014-11-17.

External links

  • Articles by Karma Phuntsho - at Open Democracy
  • About Dr. Karma Phuntsho
  • Interview in the Raven
  • [The Loden Foundation]
  • Shejun
Retrieved from "https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Karma_Phuntsho&oldid=1130904049"