About Lama Pema
Lama Kunzang Garwang was Pema’s father and his first teacher. Lama Kunzang Garwang was a well known Yogi in Eastern Bhutan and a student of Lochen Chönyi Zangmo. Also an artist, Lama Pema’s father recognized Pema’s artistic abilities first.
In those days in Bhutan there was not paper to spare for things like writing practice or doodles, but they did have a unique sort of writing tablet. These were made by taking a piece of smooth wood like plywood and painting the surface black, then spreading that surface with a type of grease. That sticky surface was sprinkled with white ash from the fire and that was the tool used to practice letter writing and for Pema, letter writing and art.
At the age of thirteen Pema’s education was focused on the traditional Tibetan and Bhutanese Arts with his teacher Buli Tulku Rinpoche. From Rinpoche he learned everything, how to create Thangka paintings, Sand Mandalas, Torma, and how to build Stupas according to ancient guidelines, and much more. Buli Tulku Rinpoche is a rare master, now more so than ever, and he himself studied with and received his teachings from His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche.
Buli Tulku Rinpoche continues to this day to teach students, and he has done so much to preserve the traditional sacred arts forms. In addition to Buli Tulku Rinpoche, Pema also studied with Loppen Ugyen Lhundrub, who was awarded a gold medal during the Silver Jubilee Anniversary (1999) from the fourth King of Bhutan, as the best thangka artist of the country in his time, and finally Pema strengthened his understanding of what we know as sacred art, by living and studying with the great Terton Pedgyal Lingpa.
Arrival in the States
In 1991 HE Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche was in need of two Vajrayana artists for his flourishing center in Northern California. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche asked Buli Tulku Rinpoche for a recommendation and Buli Tulku Rinpoche recommended Lama Pema, who was also endorsed by the Royal family of Bhutan. That year Lama Pema came to Chagdud Gompa for just a few months, speaking no English and a little bit homesick. He returned again the next year to California at the centers request, and has been returning to the US and Europe every year since.
As Lama Pema became more comfortable in his surroundings here, learned English and made a few friends, he has made the US his second home, bringing Vajrayana Art and Goodwill to such exotic places as Tennessee and Florida!
Lama Pema is a rare artist, thoroughly trained in all the Vajrayana Arts. He has students in Bhutan and has also helped to guide students at a thangka school in Nepal on several occasions at the request of the master there. Pema’s work has been described as “exquisite” by well known scholars, it has been sought after by practioners in the west and the east, and his own devotion to art and artists – is a beautiful thing.