Dr. AKONG TULKU RINPOCHE
Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who created ROKPA, and who has guided its development through the past 15 years, has had an extraordinary life. The first 20 years were spent in Tibet, as a reincarnate lama heading a complex of monasteries and retreat centres in the isolated Tsawa Gang mountain range in Eastern Tibet. During this time he received the full transmission of the Kagyu Buddhist lineage from Secchen Kongtrul Rinpoche and also trained from an early age as doctor of Tibetan medicine. His spiritual training was completed under the guidance of HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, who also certified him as a doctor of Tibetan medicine.
This spiritually-rich and illustrious period in Tibet was followed by a transitional period of poverty and uncertainty, which lasted for some 8 years. From 1959-1963, he was a refugee in Northern India, eventually becoming one of the key people responsible for running a special school for other, younger, Tibetan refugee reincarnate lamas.
1963-67 was spent at Oxford in the UK, where he learnt English and supported a small group of Tibetan lamas by working a theatre orderly in a hospital.
The next 25 years were spent pioneering the introduction of Tibetan religion and culture into the Western forum. This served a double purpose: it began to make available a wealth of material from one of Asia's finest and most extraordinary civilisations as well as thereby ensuring its survival and perpetuation as living tradition. This work was centred around the development of the Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Centre ( Samye Ling site ), in Scotland; the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the West. This establishment was developed jointly by Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in its first few years and thereafter by Dr Akong. Always concerned with giving something of authentic value to the visitors coming to Kagyu Samye Ling from all over the world, he made it first and foremost a place of peace and spirituality, with a strong accent on active, selfless compassion, open to anyone of any faith.
In response to a growing demand for specific teachings from the Kagyu traditions, he invited its greatest living scholars and meditation masters to Scotland, where they taught its main meditation practices and philosophical texts. The ground was laid for the proper development of these teachings in the West when the Supreme Head of the Kagyu Lineage, HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa visited Samye Ling in 1975 and 1977. Dr Akong Tulku was asked by the Karmapa to be the organisor of his 1977 6-month tour of Europe.
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.
Phase 1 of the Samye Project consists of the temple, built entirely by the members of the Samye Ling community, under the active leadership of Dr Akong Tulku, who was often to be seen with a trowel in hand on the building site. The inside of the temple was exquisitely finished by a team of fine artists, sculptors, woodcarvers and other craftspeople working under the guidance of Sherapalden Beru. Sherapalden is one of the, if not the, finest master-artists of the Karma Kagyu tradition. The grand opening of Samye Temple took place on the 8th August 1988, with a commemorative plaque being unveiled by the XIIth Tai Situpa and the Rt. Hon. David Steel MP. Senior representatives of the world's religions attended. During this period of Samye Ling's development, various satellite centres and activities had come into being. Samye Dzong centres [premises without accompanying land] grew up in Belgium, Spain, Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, the UK and other. 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.
Also during this time, Tibet had opened up, and ex-refugees such as Dr Akong Tulku had been able to return to discover what had happened during their absence. As contacts became gradually re-established, Dr Akong realised the help that the Western world could bring to Tibet, there being a great need for health care, education and other facilities to be improved in remote rural areas. This seemed a very fair exchange for the many useful and fascinating benefits that the Western world itself was gaining from the Tibetan heritage.
Much of Dr Akong Tulku Rinpoche's time since 1988 has been devoted to the Tibetan people
in many humanitarian and other activities.