Lama Catherine Rathbun Jetsun Yeshe passes away

Buddhism in Canada Death Teacher Stories Teachers Toronto Vajrayana

We have just learned that Lama Catherine Rathbun Jetsun Yeshe, founder and teacher at Friends of the Heart in Toronto, has passed away.

Here is a notice from Toronto Mind-Body

Here is a brief outline of her life, from the Friends of the Heart website:

Catherine Rathbun Jetsun Yeshe


A householder, a mother, a wife. a teacher, a friend….

She has a background as a dancer and was a member of the National Ballet Company of Canada in the early 1960’s. Due to a dance related injury Catherine left the ballet world. She attended Trinity College in the University of Toronto where she graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Philosophy and Religious Knowledge.

From 1966 to 1969 she lived and worked on the European Continent and in London England, where she trained in Modern Dance and performed in multi-media theatre at the end of the 1960’s. Founding the Nottinghill Arts and Community Centre, she taught low income children dance and street theatre. Since that time she has taught dance in New Zealand and Canada (including at the University of Western Ontario) and now frequently incorporates creative movement into her meditation teaching as well as yoga.

Her formal meditation training began in 1969. During this time she took initiation and teaching from the very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche and the Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche. Having sold or given away all her belongings in 1972, she and her husband traveled with their two babies first to Morocco to do intensive training with Namgyal Rinpoche, then to India to take teaching from  His Holiness Sakya Trinzin and His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. She completed her Nongdro (Tibetan foundation study) practices in 1973 and was given permission and encouragement to teach in 1976.

Residing in New Zealand from 1973 to 1979, she continued to study, attend retreats and teach, helping to establish 2 retreat centres there. During this time she traveled to Sikkim where she received initiation and teachings from His Holiness XVI Karmapa in 1979 during a 3 month period of retreat. Then she returned to Canada later that year. Her principal residence since that time has been Canada.

In Toronto, she founded Friends of the Heart, and spent 27 years there living and working as a lay teacher while raising three children. In addition to Buddhist practices, she studies and teaches Christian, Sufi and Western Mystery practices, incorporating ideas into her classes that will help the Western practitioner build bridges between East and West. For 7 years she taught courses at Vanier College in York University on these subjects. She has students in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada and the U.S. and has trained a number of students who are now teaching in Canada, Australia, Thailand and Japan. At present she is teaching a Meditation Facilitator Certificate programme coordinated with Friends of the Heart and seeing people on a one to one basis.

In recognition of her contribution, in 2001, she was given the title of Jetsun (highly realized being) by Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche, who is a Choje Lama. He is the 4th throne holder in the Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, which is His Holiness XVII Karmapa’s main monastery outside of Tibet. He is also a master of the Karma Kargyu and Sakya Lineages.

She is the author of several booklets and 2 books: Developing The World Mind,and Clear Heart, Open Mind as well as tapes and CDs.  She is working on a third book Waiting for Truffles: Meditations for Daily Living  as well as a book of poetry.

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