Moderator: Tibetan Buddhism moderators
Knotty Veneer wrote:KonchokZoepa wrote:but where can we get the short supplication prayers ?
Some advice from Ken Holmes Samye Ling director of studies:
"For those of you wanting to do some prayers related to Akong Rinpoche. Unlike ordinary people, he does not need our help in the bardo: he is buddha and if any help at all is needed then the Tai Situpa and the Gyalwang Karmapa will provide it, for sure.
The Tai Situpa has recommended we do the Milarepa Guru Yoga. Some of you may have had the transmission for the whole practice and can do it. Normally the Internet is not the place for meditation instruction but in this case I think it is appropriate to give the simple form:
Take Refuge & Bodhicitta first, in a way that speaks to you the most. Alternatively do the "Short Prayer to Vajradhara" (Dorje Chang Tungma).
Think that Akong Rinpoche's presence ... "feel" ... is vividly present before you in space but taking the form of the body of light of Milarepa.
Chant "Jé Mila Zhépa Dorjé la Solwandepso" from the heart as many times and as meaningfully as you can. You'll probably find the tune from a friend or on Youtube. If not, I'll upload it.
Milarepa/AR dissolves in light into you
Conclude by dedicating the merit to the good continuation of Akong Rinpoché's work, to his swift rebirth among us and to many lifetimes of meaningful connection with him."
CHOJE AKONG RINPOCHE, who has died aged 73, was a Tibetan Buddhist lama who made his home in Britain and co-founded Samye Ling in the Scottish Borders, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West.
A prominent and influential figure in the exiled Tibetan Buddhist community, Akong played a major role in promoting Tibetan Buddhist teachings and culture to the West, and through his humanitarian organisation ROKPA initiated and supported educational and medical projects throughout the world.
Akong arrived in Britain in 1963, virtually penniless, having already experienced a life that went from privilege to privation. He was born on April 4 1940 at the village of Dharak, in the eastern Tibetan province of Kham. At the age of two, following instructions from the 16th Karmapa (spiritual leader of the Karma Kagyu school) he was recognised as a reincarnation of the previous (and 1st) Akong, the Abbot of Lho Tsawagang Drolma Lhakang monastery. When he was four he was taken from his family to the monastery, where he received a traditional education in religious philosophy before attending the monastic university of Sechen, where he was certified as a teacher of Tibetan medicine.
In 1959, as the invading Chinese army tightened its grip on Tibet, Akong fled the country as one of the leaders in a party of some 200 people which included another prominent lama, Chogyam Trungpa, the Abbot of Surmang Monastery. It took them three weeks to cross the Himalayas to safety. At one stage, attempting to cross the Bhramaputra river they were obliged to fabricate coracles from pieces of leather, using the gum from trees as glue. They crossed the river under gunfire from Chinese troops. The same pieces of leather were boiled and then chewed to stave off starvation. Only 13 of the party survived.
Arriving in Assam, Trungpa and Akong were placed in a refugee camp that had been built by the British during the Second World War to house troublemakers. There they met Freda Bedi, an Englishwoman who would later become a Tibetan Buddhist nun, Sister Palmo, and who had founded a Young Lamas’ Home School at the Indian hill station of Dalhousie to prepare young reincarnate lamas from all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism for life outside Tibet.
Freda Bedi took Trungpa and Akong into her own family. Trungpa became the school’s principal, and Akong its manager. Trungpa, Bedi’s son Kabir remembered, was “very flamboyant: a naughty boy, but a brilliant teacher. Akong, on the other hand, radiated a great calm and a great solidity. He didn’t talk much about things; he just went out and did them.”
With the help of Freda Bedi, the two young men, along with a third lama, Chime Rinpoche, left India for Britain. Trungpa had been awarded a Spalding Scholarship to study comparative religion at Oxford. Akong was obliged to work as a hospital orderly in order to support them both. He would subsequently take British citizenship.
In 1967 the two men took over Johnstone House, a former hunting lodge near the village of Eskdalemuir in the Scottish Borders, which had briefly served as a Buddhist retreat centre led by a Canadian Theravadin monk. With Chogyam Trungpa at its head, the centre was renamed Samye Ling, after the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet.
At first the centre attracted an eccentric mixture of serious Buddhist students and hippie refugees from the India trail, most of whom Trungpa would later observe “seemed to be slightly missing the point”. The charismatic Trungpa embraced the alternative Western lifestyle, drinking alcohol and occasionally smoking dope with his students .
The more stolid and conservative Akong was, as he would later remember, “the bed maker. But my main job was cleaning floors. I wasn’t interested in teaching. If you want to teach, you have to know: and I didn’t feel I knew enough.” On one occasion a resident surreptitiously slipped him a hash-brownie. “It had no effect whatsoever,” the miscreant remembered. “Akong was like a rock.”
Relations between Akong and Trungpa grew increasingly strained when Trungpa announced his intention to marry a 16-year-old local girl, Diana Pybus. Matters reached a head when Trungpa was involved in a bizarre accident when, driving in Northumberland (he did not hold a licence) he blacked out at the wheel and crashed his car through the window of a joke and novelty shop. Shortly afterwards he left Britain for America, settling in Boulder, Colorado, where he founded another Buddhist organisation, Vajjradhatu, and, later, America’s first Buddhist university, Naropa.
With Trungpa’s departure, Akong took charge of Samye Ling, imposing a more disciplined regime. He proved an inspiring administrator, supervising the growth of Samye Ling into a vibrant monastic community, made up of a mixture of Tibetan monks, Westerners who had taken monastic vows and laypeople. A magnificent temple, built in the traditional Tibetan style, was erected in the grounds beside the old house (Akong was often to be found on site, trowel in hand) and consecrated by the Dalai Lama in 1983. New accommodation blocks for visitors were added.
A succession of prominent lamas, exiled from Tibet, attended to give teachings, and what are known in Tibetan Buddhism as “empowerments”. The most notable among them was the 16th Karmapa, who had recognised Akong as a young child, and who on his visit in 1974 performed the Vajra Crown ceremony — a ritual involving the ancestral “Black Hat” of the Karmapas, which dates from the 16th century — in the former drawing room at Johnstone House. Over the years, the centre’s activities expanded to include courses in traditional medicine, meditation and Tai Chi.
Akong was not a monk. An avowed traditionalist who invariably dressed in a traditional Tibetan chuba (tunic), he was a heavily built man with a sober, authoritative manner. “He didn’t speak much,” one long-term student remembers. “But his words always carried a lot of weight. He was a very strong person — powerful. But at the same time he was a man of constant compassion and impartiality. His attitude to everybody was exactly the same: kindness.”
Akong took a particular interest in the relationship between Buddhist philosophy and Western psychiatry, and the therapeutic possibilities of meditation. In 1989 he established a separate residential community, Lothlorien, in south-west Scotland, for treating people with mental health problems; and he was the author of three books on the application of Tibetan Buddhist teachings to daily life.
In 1980, Akong Rinpoche founded ROKPA, an international humanitarian organisation that has supported projects throughout Europe and Asia. Much of the organisation’s activities are concentrated in Nepal and Tibet. An astute politician, as well as an energetic social activist, Akong cultivated unusually close links with the Chinese government, treading the difficult path through the tangled jungle of Sino-Tibetan relations, and was able to establish more than 100 different charitable projects in his former homeland. He was particularly concerned that pupils at ROKPA schools should follow traditional cultural practices in dress and language.
In 1992 Akong went to Tibet to take charge of the search party that brought a seven-year-old boy, Apo Gaga, from his home in a nomad’s tent in eastern Tibet to Tsurphu monastery, near Lhasa, where with the permission of the Chinese authorities the young boy was enthroned as the 17th Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje — the second most important figure after the Dalai Lama in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. The identity and whereabouts of the young boy had been determined following the discovery of a “prediction letter” ostensibly written by the 16th Karmapa before his death in 1981.
In 1999, at the age of 14, the 17th Karmapa escaped from Tibet into India, after it became apparent that the Chinese would not allow him to receive his lineage teachings and intended to use him as a political “puppet”.
Akong spent five months of every year in Tibet visiting his projects, and maintained a house in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province of China, as a base. It was a mark of his ability to straddle two apparently disparate worlds that in June 2011 he was acknowledged by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, for his remarkable contribution to British life as part of the 60th Anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention.
Two months later he travelled to Lhasa at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party to attend the 60th Anniversary of the so-called “Peaceful Liberation of Tibet”, where he was greeted as a “Patriotic Tibetan”.
“That was extremely difficult for him,” one student remembered. “It upset many Tibetans. He didn’t want to go, but he knew that if he refused it would be his projects that would suffer. And he was prepared to jeopardise his own reputation for the sake of that.”
Akong Rinpoche was murdered in his home at Chengdu while on a visit to supervise ROKPA projects. He is survived by his wife and three children.
Choje Akong Rinpoche, born April 4 1940, died October 8 2013
"12 OCTOBER 2012
Now that the Chengdu Police have released the names of the men who killed Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche, his nephew and attendant, we are in a position to confirm that one of the suspects named by the police, Tu Dan Gu Sha also known as Thubten Kunsal, had previously spent more than five years in the UK, and returned to China two years ago.
Whilst residing in the UK he made religious statues at our monastery in Scotland and our London centre. He left very happy and there was no question of any economic dispute. My brother, Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche had always been very kind to Thubten Kunsal and welcomed him into the heart of our community.
According to an official microblog post by the Chengdu police force, the three suspects confronted my brother and the other two victims, with knives, at his home in Chengdu in what is being described as an "economic dispute."
We strongly refute any claims that Thubten Kunsal was owed money by Akong Rinpoche, the monastery or our London centre. When he was with us in the UK we supported his living expenses as agreed in writing, and there was never any dispute about that.
We are therefore very shocked that two years later he came demanding money, knowing that Akong Rinpoche was about to send funds to the ROKPA charitable projects in the Tibetan areas of China. As we have already stated, Akong Rinpoche died defending those funds.
It has been reported in the press that the driver who was killed was a monk from Samye Ling. This is not correct. It was Akong Tulku Rinpoche's Tibetan attendant, from his Monastery Dolma Lhakang, who has not been to the UK.
I hope this statement will clear up any misunderstandings,
With thanks for your prayers and kind wishes,
Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
Abbot of Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland."
October 14, 2013
Unfortunately I used the word "assassination" in respect of the killing of my brother Akong Rinpoche. English is not my first language and I did not appreciate that the word means killing with a religious or political motive. I never intended to imply that there was such a motive and I regret the misunderstanding that has been caused.
Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche
Abbot of Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland.
No matter how much you duck and weave, the wheel of sharp weapons will always nail yah!
JKhedrup wrote:No matter how much you duck and weave, the wheel of sharp weapons will always nail yah!
This is true for us ordinary beings, but not well-cultivated practitioners.
Stewart can you keep us posted about the funeral and practices being dedicated to Rinpoche here, if possible?
He was the teacher of several of my close friends, including one in retreat.
Akong Rinpoche was key to Tibetan Buddhism flourishing in the west
Buddhism's popularity over the past half-century in the west has surprised and dismayed in almost equal measure. Alongside the fad for Buddhist statues in garden centres, there has been a much more serious engagement with hundreds of centres opening, many of the most dynamic founded by Tibetan Buddhists. Given that Tibet had limited contact with modernity until the 20th century, it's been an extraordinary story of cultural export. The vivid colour and spectacle of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, and the warmth and humour of their teachers, have contributed to making Buddhism into a rare religious success in a deepening secularism. Tibetan Buddhist teachers have familiarised thousands with meditation, increasing interest from academic researchers into the benefits of mindfulness.
Central to this history was the remarkable life of Choje Akong Rinpoche, co-founder of the first Tibetan monastery in the west, who was murdered in Chengdu in China last week. As a small child he was taken from his nomadic family to a monastery as an important reincarnation. Throughout his childhood he was honoured as a great teacher. At the age of 19, as the Chinese arrived in Tibet and destroyed thousands of monasteries, he set off on foot for India, a journey of indescribable suffering in which hundreds of fellow refugees died of starvation, exhaustion and attacks. Four years later in 1963 he arrived in England and worked as a hospital orderly in Oxford supporting a fellow Tibetan monk who was studying. Within a few years, he had gone from a life of immense monastic prestige to scrubbing toilets in a foreign country.
Anyone visiting Samye Ling, the monastery Akong Rinpoche co-founded in the Scottish Borders in 1963, or the London centre (now in a magnificent former library in Bermondsey) cannot fail to be impressed by the sheer scale of the ambition they represent. This kind of institution-building by a refugee community and the volunteer effort it has inspired are hard to match. The temples are lavishly decorated with paintings and statues according to Tibetan practice, and the rituals and ceremonies are an extraordinary spectacle of drums, bells and chanting by Tibetan monks, as well as dozens of western counterparts – an experience of Tibet in the rainy hills of the Scottish Borders.
Some found the Tibetan influence immensely appealing; others were bemused at the deeply ritualistic approach. Akong Rinpoche was a traditionalist and one of his driving motivations was the preservation of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular his Kagyu lineage (one of four lineages or sects in Tibetan Buddhism), in the face of a concerted Chinese effort to obliterate Tibetan culture. In recent years he and a team gathered thousands of single-copy manuscripts and took copies of them out of Tibet to be saved. What was at stake was an entire cultural tradition.
Ken Holmes, a Buddhist teacher and close associate for over 40 years, believes this was a task of immense value. "Tibetan Buddhism, when it is properly understood, has the most profound and complete understanding of the human mind and its possibilities. An immense treasure has been stored in Tibet all these years."
Hundreds of devoted followers would agree. On one occasion I found myself in the London centre (then next door to Lambeth Palace) for an "empowerment" ritual. The entire compound, newly refurbished by volunteers, looked resplendent and was heaving with thirty- and fortysomethings gathered to welcome Akong Rinpoche. It was the kind of reception that his neighbour, the Archbishop of Canterbury, would have relished. Other Buddhist teachers are more critical. John Peacock, once himself a Tibetan Buddhist monk, argues that western followers romanticise the Tibetan association and fail to distinguish between what is Tibetan cultural practice and Buddhism. "Tibetan Buddhism is deeply sectarian," he says.
But what Peacock and Holmes agree on is that Akong Rinpoche developed over the last decade a remarkable programme of humanitarian work in Tibet and among Tibetan refugees in Nepal and India. He set up schools, clinics and reforestation projects, as well as supporting monasteries and student monks in universities in China and India. It is a pioneering model of socially engaged Buddhism in a faith sometimes criticised for its preoccupation with spiritual development to the neglect of material wellbeing.
Akong Rinpoche supervised dozens of other projects, including the laborious process of bringing Tibetan medicine in line with UK regulations as well as developing a form of psychotherapy that drew on Tibetan Buddhist practice. What lay behind all of them was Akong Rinpoche's remarkable skills as a diplomat and a manager; he was a modest, quiet man without the obvious charisma of other, more famous Tibetan teachers. But he was brilliant at organising; he was good at making connections, whether it was with the local Scottish community – he became a good friend to Lord Steel and forged links with Scottish churches – or with the Chinese. He walked a diplomatic tightrope to safeguard his development projects in Tibet, withdrawing from any public meetings with the Dalai Lama for fear of giving offence to the Chinese.
Peacock sees his success as symptomatic of a remarkable refugee community that has managed to re-establish itself and set up flourishing monasteries in several parts of the world. He points to the history of Tibetans as one of traders and entrepreneurs between the two great civilisations of India and China. Holmes sees something else in Akong Rinpoche – an extraordinary ability to inspire others to live out the compassion on which he based all his teachings. The fundraising was never about soliciting big donations but about dozens of dogged initiatives, many of which lasted decades without losing a clear vision of the ultimate goal.
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