At age 5, Geshe Sonam, with only his two older brothers and parents, fled Tibet over the mountains to India. He was ordained as a monk at age 10. In 1995, after 22 years of study at the famous Sera Je Monastery in Bylakuppe, Mysore, India, Ven. Sonam was awarded the prestigious academic title of Geshe (equivalent to a graduate level degree in Buddhist philosophy). The Geshe degree requires the ongoing demonstration of complete knowledge of the five major treatises: the Perfection of Wisdom (as elaborated upon by Maitreya in the Abhisamayalamkara); Chandrakirti’s commentary on Nagarjuna’s root text on Madhyamaka; Dharmakirti’s Pramanavartika – Compendium on Valid Cognition; Vasubhandu’s Abhidharmakosha; and Vinaya – studies in monastic discipline.
In 1997, Geshe Sonam was appointed for a one-year term as disciplinarian of Tehor Khamsten (the largest of the 14 houses at Sera Je). Between 1998 and 2000 he was elected for a three-year term on the Committee for Philosophical Studies at Sera Je. Between 2000 and 2007, Geshe Sonam was teaching Buddhist philosophy to pupil monks at Sera Je and then from 2007 at the Tibetan Children’s Village. Since 2010, Geshe Sonam has been abbot of his affiliate Tehor Khamsten.