Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche, one of the earliest pioneers in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to the West—and the victim of a widely-reported murder in Chengdu, China, in early October of this year (see Buddhadharma News stories here and here)—will be the subject of a documentary film that was already in the works before his untimely demise.
Produced and directed by London-based Chico Dall’inha, Akong: A Remarkable Life will explore the spiritual influence and extraordinary changes in fortune of Akong Rinpoche. Born in 1940 in eastern Tibet and enthroned as a reincarnate lama by age 4, Rinpoche had to flee the advancing Communist Chinese army in 1959 and enter India as a refugee. He emigrated to Great Britain in 1963, sustaining himself for several years as an orderly in an Oxford hospital.
By 1967, however, he and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche had founded Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland, the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West. Since then, Akong Rinpoche has steadily developed an international network of centers and projects dedicated to spiritual practice, healing therapies, and charity under the umbrella of ROKPA International.
The American Buddhist perspectives blog has just published an interview that Lisa Tully conducted with Chico Dall’inha about the film, which you may read here.
To learn more about Akong: A Remarkable Life, which has received an outpouring of support since Akong Rinpoche’s death, visit the producers’ Indiegogo page here.
One of the pioneers in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to the West, 73-year-old Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche, apparently was murdered along with two others in Chengdu, China, according to an open letter published on the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Buddhist Centre Facebook page by his brother, Lama Yeshe Rinpoche.
Akong Tulku, who emigrated to Great Britain in 1963 after fleeing the Communist Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, founded Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1967. It was the first Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the West.
Here is the text of the announcement letter (edited for precision):
“To all dear friends of Samye Ling and Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche:
“I am very, very sorry to inform you all that tragically, my brother Choje Akong Rinpoche, my nephew and one monk who was travelling with them, were all assassinated in Chengdu today. Rinpoche’s body has been taken to hospital where a post mortem will be carried out. That is all the news I have so far. If I receive further news I will let you know. Read More »
News of a Tibetan father of two becoming the 122nd person to set himself on fire in protest of the Communist Chinese government’s policies in Tibet came simultaneously with the release of a detailed report by human rights groups on China’s repressive measures to control Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibet Post International and other sources report that the 41-year-old man, identified only by his first name, Sichung, set himself alight Saturday after making offerings to a portrait of the Dalai Lama. He walked about forty steps down a highway in Sichuan province, near where people were gathered for a prayer ceremony, “shouting slogans against Chinese rule.” Sichung died from his burns. Chinese soldiers, who had already gathered to monitor the prayer event, prevented local Tibetans at gunpoint from recovering the body and took it away themselves.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) issued a report Sunday, titled “Chinese Crackdown on Tibetan Buddhism,” in which they called for an end to China’s increasingly onerous policies in Tibet, citing them as the driving cause for the desperate wave of Tibetan self-immolation protests since 2008. Read More »
Tashi Dhargyal has reached a new benchmark: the drawing for the 15-x-20-foot thangka has been completed, and a legend of the 37 Buddhas, teachers, and deities is complete.
If you are interested in learning more, or contributing to this auspicious endeavor, a new crowd-sourced funding campaign has been launched.
One of the most significant results emerging from last month’s Founding Members’ Conclave of the International Buddhist Confederation in New Delhi, India, was the announcement of the formation of the first organization seeking to represent the global Buddhist community.
The Voice of America spoke with the 82-year-old Lama Lobzang, whose Asoka Mission has taken on the task of overseeing the new body:
“The main responsibility of our organization is the preservation of Buddhist heritage sites including over 100 Buddhist meditative caves in Indian states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. These ancient Buddhist sites that were previously neglected need to be protected and preserved.”
Buddhist representatives from 33 nations attended the conference (though Lama Lobzang lamented the lack of Chinese representation due to the difficulty of obtaining exit visas), and the VOA said their new organization also seeks to be “a voice for the religion at major international events.”
Tucked away in Gallery 251 at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a small exhibit of Buddhist art opened last week with a big claim. The fourteen objects on display in “Masterpieces of Tibetan and Nepalese Art: Recent Acquisitions” include five sculptures which, according to Art Daily, “are among the rarest and most important such objects to enter a Western collection.”
The works, created between the 11th and 17th centuries, all come from the Zimmerman Family Collection. Met curator John Guy says that “almost every major exhibition of Himalayan art mounted over the past four decades has featured works from this collection” — including the seminal “Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet” exhibit in 1991, the mammoth catalog for which has become a classic reference on the subject.
The Met offers this explanation for the particular significance of this time and geography in the evolution of sacred Buddhist art in the Himalaya: Read More »
Wisdom Publications launches new site, expands reach through freshly inked deal with Simon & Schuster
Wisdom Publications, the nonprofit charitable organization and publisher of Buddhist books, has entered into an agreement with Simon & Schuster, Inc. for the sales and fulfillment of its entire catalog of contemporary and classic Buddhist books.
Wisdom has also relaunched its website to coincide with the changes. Says Wisdom Marketing and Promotions Manager Lydia Anderson, “Our new design makes browsing easier than ever, and we’ve expanded our book and author pages. We’ve also launched a new blog, organized our catalog into special interest collections, and begun offering DRM-free ebooks for sale on the site.” More on all of this after the jump.
Publishing works from all major Buddhist traditions, Wisdom is dedicated to cultivating Buddhist voices the world over, advancing critical scholarship, and preserving and sharing Buddhist literary culture. The company’s popular works include meditation manuals such as Mindfulness in Plain English, over a dozen titles by the Dalai Lama, and esteemed translations of core reference texts; all are distributed worldwide and translated into more than thirty foreign languages.
“There is clearly a large and dedicated audience for works of Buddhist interest, and they have been well-served by Wisdom Publications for many years,” said Stephen Black, S&S’s Vice President of Client Publisher Services. “Their singular catalog is a great complement to our portfolio of distributed titles, and we look forward to working with them to grow the readership for their works in both domestic and international markets.”
KFOR-TV reports that a teenage suspect has been arrested in the August 30 beating and robbery of Buddhist monk Weera “Tony” Chulsuwan near Oklahoma City, OK. Zachary Williams, 14, was driving a stolen car and attempted to flee from police on foot. A second suspect is still at large.
“I feel better,” said 66-year old Chulsuwan, “because they can’t…hurt anybody else like they did on me.”
Buddhadharma News previously reported on the robbery itself, as well as subsequent efforts within the Buddhist community to help Chulsuwan, who lives without running water or electricity on $350 per month, and cares for several rescue pets and horses.
The title “Guardian of the Himalayas” was bestowed on Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, in a New York ceremony September 23 by the environmental advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance. The Alliance, founded by environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., conferred the honor in recognition of Gyalwang Drukpa’s leadership on water conservation and glacial preservation in the region through the “environmental sustainability venture” of his organization, Live to Love.
Among many other accomplishments to date, Live to Love earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2010 for “Most Trees Planted Simultaneously” — 50,033 in the Himalayan region of Ladakh — and then broke its own record by planting 99,103 more trees in the same area in 2012.
Speaking on the occasion of his award, the Gyalwang Drukpa said, “Live to Love is committed to preserving the environment and creating a sustainable ecological system that ensures that we give back to the nature from which we continue to draw incessantly. With global recognition and support like these, we will continue to do our small bit towards preserving the planet for our future generations.”
Many ancient Buddhist sites across India are in a state of ongoing deterioration, according to a study conducted by the Buddhist Forum, an organization whose stated mission is to “create awareness about the neglected ancient Buddhist sites in Asia.” Forum founder Sidhartha Gauri cited India’s Bihar state — home to Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha attained enlightenment — as an example. Having sent “right to information queries” to the state archaeological department, Gauri says they “claimed that they have only three protected Buddhist sites under their jurisdiction. However, we have collected information about at least 250 ancient Buddhist sites in the state, most of which are in a despicable condition.”
Though Indian, Goenka was born and raised in Burma. It was there he met and studied with the meditation teacher Sayagyi U Bha Thin. Returning to India, Goenka began publicly teaching meditation in 1969. Emphasizing a nonsectarian approach stripped of ritual, Goenka’s meditation courses quickly gained broad popular appeal.
Goenka’s basic ten-day silent meditation retreats (as well as other variations) introduce attendees to a rigorous discipline of breath concentration and close attention to the arising and passing of ever-more-subtle elements of physical and mental sensation, in the service of awakening to the universal, deathless nature of dharma. These courses are now offered on a donation-only basis at 172 centers worldwide, as well as in many prison systems.
“The whole technique,” Goenka said in a 2003 interview with Buddhadharma, “is investigating reality at the experiential level, within oneself.”
When asked to define an enlightened person, he elaborated: “Such a person must have understood the truth at the experiential level. They must have been liberated from all impurities, not just on the surface but in the totality of the mind. Then, by nature, they will be full of love, compassion and goodwill. We can say that such a person is enlightened.”
Read more here about what S. N. Goenka shared with Buddhadharma readers about the meditation techniques he taught, the danger of turning the dharma into a commodity, and why he declined to call himself a Buddhist, or what he taught “Buddhism.”
Photograph via dhamma.org.
The Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation, in an effort to support local dharma communities, has introduced a tool called Sangha in a Box. Along with funds that are being made available to invite teachers to visit one’s locale, the Sangha in a Box kit is designed to be an easily replicable resource of all the basic items necessary to nurture the seeds of a contemplative community: DVD practice instruction, audio chants, study materials, items for the altar, and a mindfulness bell.