Sopa became a novice monk and entered Gaden Chokor Monastery in 1932. In 1941, he joined Sera Monastery in Lhasa. He was considered a remarkable scholar from a young age, and even before completing his own geshe degree examinations, he was chosen as one of the Dalai Lama's debate examiners during the annual Prayer Festival in 1959.
Geshe Sopa sought political asylum in India in 1959. In 1962, he was awarded the degree of Lharampa Geshe. At the request of Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, he moved to the USA with three other monks that same year to learn English and to study American culture.
In 1967, Sopa was invited by Richard Robinson to join the faculty of the pioneer Buddhist Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. In 1985, he became Emeritus Professor in the Department of South Asian Studies. Sopa was the first Tibetan to be tenured at an American university. He taught Modern and Literary Tibetan as well as courses in Tibetan Literature, the History of Buddhist Thought, Buddhist Epistemology, Buddhist Logic, and Buddhist doctrinal systems. During that time, Sopa trained many of the first generation of respected Buddhist scholars and translators in the USA, including Jeffrey Hopkins, José Cabezón, John Makransky and Zorba Paster. Sopa has retired since from his professorship.
To meet the request of students for Buddhist teachings, Sopa founded the Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wisconsin in 1975. The Kalachakra Tantra initiation was given in the West for the first time at Deer Park July, 1981.
Sopa is a trustee on the International Committee for Peace Council.
- Cutting through appearances: Practice and Theory of Tibetan Buddhism, co-authored with Jeffrey Hopkins
- Wheel of Time: the Kalachakra in Context, co-authored with Roger Jackson and John Newman
- Peacock in the Poison Grove: Two Buddhists Texts for Training the Mind
- Steps on the Path to Enlightenment: A Commentary on the Lamrim Chenmo, Volume 1: The Foundation Practices
- Teachings from Tibet: Guidance from Great Lamas, co-authored
- FPMT on Geshe Sopa
- Deer Park Buddhist Center
- James Blumenthal interviews Geshe Sopa on the three types of spiritual beings