It was founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1984 as a centre of North American Buddhism in The Vajrayana tradition of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Abbey is associated with the Vajradhatu Buddhist Church of Canada and Shambhala International. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche now serves as abbot.
Gampo Abbey's resident Teacher is the well-known author, Buddhist nun and Teacher Pema Chödrön. There are twelve Monks and Nuns at the abbey as of March 2009, a small number of whom are Bhikṣus, with four more expected by May 2009. All are ordained in the Mulasarvastivadin lineages of Vinaya, or in the case of the Bhikṣuṇīs, a combination of the Mulasarvastivadin and Dharmaguptaka lineages.
In 1996 Thrangu Rinpoche, the Abbot of Gampo Abbey, requested for a Stupa to be built at Gampo Abbey. Supported by the founder's son Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, building work on the Stupa commenced in 1999. After completion, Thrangu Rinpoche consecrated the Stupa in August 2001 dedicating it to World Peace. The Stupa of Enlightenment houses the Relics of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and also symbolizes that The Dharma has taken root in Nova Scotia.