Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche

BORN IN 1939 near Riwoche in Kham, Eastern Tibet, Akong Tulku was discovered at a very young age as reincarnation of the previous (First) Akong, Abbot of Dolma Lhakang monastery near Chakdado, in the Chamdo area of Kham. Around the age of four, the child was taken to Dolma Lhakang to receive the spiritual and formal education necessary for him to be able resume his work as Abbot later on. Dolma Lhakang was a monastery with some 100 monks and many associated small retreats and nunneries. Besides his religious studies, the young Akong also trained in traditional Tibetan medicine.

As a teenager, Akong Tulku travelled from community to community, performing religious ceremonies and treating the sick. He then went to the great monastic university of Secchen, where he received transmission of the quintessential Kagyu mahamudra lineage from Secchen Kongtrul Rinpoche. His spiritual training as a holder of the Kagyu lineage was further completed under the guidance of His Holiness the Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa, who also certified him as a teacher of Tibetan medicine. Rinpoche also holds many lineages of the Nyingmapa tradition.

The 1959 takeover of Tibet caused Akong Tulku Rinpoche to flee to India, in an arduous, nine month journey as one of

the leaders of a 300-strong party, of which only some 13 persons made it to safety in India. After spending some time in refugee camps, Rinpoche along with some other lamas was asked to look after the Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie, northwest India.

Through the kind help of Mrs Freda Bedi, later to become Sister Palmo, Akong Tulku and Trungpa Tulku, Abbot of Surmang, sailed to England in 1963, to learn English in Oxford. Only the latter had a bursary and Akong Rinpoche worked for some years as a simple hospital orderly, supporting himself, Trungpa Rinpoche and Tulku Chime of Benchen Monastery in the small apartment they shared.

The next 25 years (1963-1988) were spent introducing the West to Tibetan religion and some aspects of its culture. This served a double purpose: it began to make available to the world at large a wealth of material from one of Asia's finest and most extraordinary civilizations. It also ensured its survival and perpetuation as a living tradition. This work was centered around the development of the Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Scotland (the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the West) developed jointly by Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa.

Under the Gyalwa Karmapa's guidance, Dr Akong Tulku established a traditional 3-year meditation retreat at Samye Ling and launched the construction of the Samye Project; the building of a major traditional Tibetan Buddhist temple and an accompanying College, Library and Museum. On another front, the interest, which many therapists and physicians showed in Dr Akong Tulku's medicinal and therapeutic Buddhist skills, led to the development of a unique therapy system, now thriving as the Tara Rokpa Therapy.

Dr Akong Tulku's main activity in the 1990s concerned the expansion of his humanitarian activities, principally in Tibet and Nepal, but also in Europe, where he created several soup kitchens to feed the homeless in major cities. With tremendous vigor and diligence, he has brought well over 100 projects into existence: a school, clinic, medical college, self-help program or a scheme to save the Tibetan environment. These are mainly located in isolated rural areas of the Eastern part of the Tibetan plateau.

In Nepal, working mainly through Rokpa International's Vice President Lea Wyler, Rinpoche has established an important project which feeds the hungry through the winter months. This has expanded to incorporate children's home, clinic, women’s self-help workshops and so forth.

In 1994, Akong Tulku Rinpoche was one of the main people to discover the reincarnation of the Sixteenthth Gyalwa Karmapa and he played a very important role in first finding him, then taking him to the Karmapa’s seat at Tolung Tsurphu monastery and later arranging the visit of the two Regents, the Twelfth Tai Situpa and the Ninth Goshir Gyaltsabpa, who performed the naming ceremony and later enthroned him formally as the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Drodul Tinley Dorje.

The increasing burden of his work in Tibet led Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche to request his brother, Lama Yeshe Losal, to take over the running of Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland. Lama Yeshe became the new Abbot and has since proved very successful, particularly in founding a strong monastic community there.

Biographical information and the photo of Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche kindly provided by Kagyu Samye Ling. 

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