Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Choje Akong was a unique figure in the recent .  Along with Chogyam Trungpa, he founded in Scotland, the first in the West.  When left for America it was who oversaw the of the and monastic complex at which has grown into one of the foremost Centres of and practice in Europe.

Early Life of Akong Tulku Rinpoche

He was born in 1939, near Riwoche in Kham, Eastern . At the age of two, he was discovered by the search party seeking the of the first Akong, Abbot of Dolma Lhakang near Chamdo.

The search party was following instructions given by the . Following Akong’s death, issued a statement clarifying his status as Rinpoche. According to the statement, Akong was a tulku of a noted and respected who had founded and developed the Dolma temple. There are no records of previous Akong Rinpoches, either as meditators or scholars. Akong was given the title of Chöjé , a title, by the 16th in 1974 in recognition of Akong’s service in developing Ling.

Transmission of the Kagyu lineage

At four he was taken to Dolma Lhakang to receive an education that included and . When only a teenager he traveled, performing ceremonies and treating the ill. Later he went to the great of Sechen where he received the transmission of the lineage from Sechen Kongtrul Rinpoche, one of two tulkus of the first . He also received instruction from the 16th Karmapa, who also certified him as a teacher of .

Travel to India

In 1959, in the aftermath of that year’s Tibetan Rebellion, he fled to at age 20. Of the 300 in his party, only 13 arrived successfully in India. They were so hungry after running out of food on the journey that they had to boil shoes and bags to make .

After spending in refugee camps he was asked to teach at the Young Home School in Dalhousie, NW India. In 1963, a sponsor paid for Akong Rinpoche and Rinpoche to go to Oxford to learn English. As only Trungpa had a bursary, Akong worked as a hospital orderly in the Radcliffe Infirmary in order to support himself, Trungpa and Lama Rinpoche.

Akong Rinpoche manifested all the qualities of a great Lama, not only through the direct and powerful he delivered to his students but also through the inspirational example he set.  He lived his whole life working selflessly and tirelessly for the benefit of others, willingly tackling any job that needed doing, and was equally at home on the building site as in the office. Those who had the to with him remember his unflagging energy, humor and the unwavering he showed to all those who came to him for advice or instruction.

This compassion manifested in many ways.  As well as the monastery at Kagyu Samye Ling, a large number of smaller Samye Dzong Centres developed under his guidance and are now flourishing around the world.  In 1980 he established the humanitarian charity ROKPA which helps tens of thousands of people every year in Tibet, , Africa and Europe.  Through his immense of Tibetan and his profound understanding of the , he also developed the Therapy programme and the Lothlorien Centre, dedicated to improving both physical and mental well-being.

Founder of Tara Rokpa Therapy

Akong Tulku Rinpoche is the person who provided the original inspiration for the development of Tara Rokpa Therapy. He was born and received his education as a and doctor of traditional Tibetan Medicine in Eastern Tibet. By the age of 20, he had taken full charge of the spiritual, medical and practical needs of the , nuns, and laypeople under his care. Before leaving Tibet he was very involved with caring for the sick and dying both as a physician and spiritual guide. When the Chinese took over this area in 1959, he sought initially in India and settled in Britain in the mid-1960s. He co-founded the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in the borders of Scotland in 1967.

Traditional Tibetan medicine and Akong Tulku Rinpoche

The inspiration of Akong Rinpoche has been crucial to this project. His knowledge and understanding have led to innovative approaches which address the disconnectedness which is found in so many facets of contemporary life and and which is a contributing cause for people seeking the help of psychotherapists. Akong Rinpoche’s therapeutic approach has been drawn largely from the principles of Traditional Tibetan medicine which is an intrinsically holistic system which has never posited a split of mind from . Akong Rinpoche continued his active engagement in the development of TRT until his death in October 2013.

Key to the TRT method which Akong Rinpoche introduced as crucial to this psychotherapy is the willingness to ‘face the situation’, whatever that may be. By not always trying to improve upon reality as one finds it, it is possible to see all sides of the situation including one’s own hidden strengths. Such ‘here and now’ ideas fit easily with the Western Systemic/Social and Personal Constructivist approaches which invite us to take responsibility for the way we construct our world together (Maturana and Varela).

Moto of Rokpa International

Apart from his role as a and his contribution to psychotherapy and Tibetan Medicine, he was an outstanding humanitarian and co-founder of ROKPA INTERNATIONAL. His interests and activities included the following:

Restoring Environments through the application of sound ecological principles, such as re-introducing organic farming methods in the third world and preservation of all of life including endangered species of plants and .
Preserving Traditional Cultures throughout the world. He was personally engaged in such preservation of culture in Tibet, Nepal and Southern Africa. Furthering Education In Tibet through founding and supporting schools focused on education of orphans and very poor children, especially in remote and nomadic areas. Establishing Tibetan curricula and teaching materials in areas where the written language had nearly died out.
Preservation of Tibetan Medicine, its and pharmacognosy as well as its textual and practice traditions.
Feeding Hungry People through soup kitchens/greenhouse projects in Europe, , and Africa.

In 1992, Akong Rinpoche was one of the main people to discover one of the two claimed reincarnations of the 16th Karmapa, Urgyen Drodul Trinley Dorje, and took him to two of the regents, Their Eminences  and  Rinpoche responsible for locating the reincarnation.

Tibetan Teachings for Improving Daily Life

Akong Rinpoche produced a book with his student Clive Holmes titled Taming the Tiger: Tibetan Teachings for Improving Daily Life, the book aims to help those seeking the truth about and . The first part deals with (and how they relate to life in the ‘Western world’), while the second part is devoted to , and for body and mind, and includes exercises designed to provide a base of self-knowledge, mind-therapy, and self- used in therapy workshops and in the treatment of psychological problems.

In 2009, he gave a presentation on Tibetan medical treatments using  and prayers at the Seventh International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicine held in . It is likely that he presented this at least partly in Tibetan, according to the Congress programme. Akong Rinpoche’s younger brother Lama  Rinpoche has now taken over some of his duties as abbot of Samye Ling.

Death of Akong Rinpoche

In spite of all he achieved, Akong Rinpoche was a man of genuine humility and quiet reserve.  Throughout his life, he sought no personal reward and his selfless example was an inspiration to people both within and beyond the community.  His tragic death in Chengdu, on October 8th, 2013 was an immeasurable loss that is still felt by many today.

The Akong Memorial Foundation is dedicated to preserving and continuing his legacy and in particular his dream for the restoration of Tsawa Gang Dolma Lhakang Monastery, his Seat in Tibet.

He was a British citizen and  raised a family in Dumfries, Scotland

Some Quotes of Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Only the impossible is worth doing.

“My wish is to benefit people in whatever way possible. That is what I do. I have no idea of my work ever finishing. It is an ongoing situation. In this life, when one thing finishes another one begins, so there is constant activity. There is no end.”

“We are not alone: everything is interrelated, and compassion is the essential link between all beings.”

The Buddhist principle is to be everybody’s friend, not to have any enemy.

Freedom is not something you look for outside of yourself. Freedom is within you.

It doesn’t matter whatever comes, stop judging and it won’t bother you.

Whatever obstacles arise, if you deal with them through without trying to escape then you have real .

To tame ourselves is the only way we can change and improve the world. Strive always to be as kind, gentle and caring as possible towards all forms of sentient life.

“Other people are not making our obstacles; nobody else creates our obstacles, they arise in ourselves.”

“If each of us were to be free from , and mind poisons, that would be the biggest contribution we could make to the whole world.”

“Nothing lasts. If we resist change we find ourselves overwhelmed and suffering follows. If we accept change and flow with it, we become flexible and wise. From this comes happiness.” 

If we have enough compassion, openness and tolerance, we can deal with any obstacle.”

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About sadiksha

Namaste! I am a Nepali Art Dealer specialized in Mandala and Thangka paintings. I love to write articles about the monastic culture of the Himalayas.

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