Son of Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche Pledges to Continue His Father’s Legacy
Jigme Tarap, the son of Tibetan lama Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who was murdered in China in 2013, has voiced his determination to continue the humanitarian work started by his father. Akong Rinpoche also founded the renowned Kagyu Samye Ling—the first Tibetan Buddhist center in the West—in Scotland in the 1960s with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939–87), who propagated the Shambhala Training approach to meditation.
At the end of January, a Chinese court sentenced two men, Thubten Kunsal and Tsering Paljor, to death and a third man to three years in prison, for the October 2013 murder of Akong Rinpoche, who was found stabbed to death, along with his nephew Loga and his assistant Chime Wangyal, at his home in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu. Police said the killings had resulted from a financial dispute.
Tarap, 44, Akong's eldest son, who was born and raised in Dumfries, Scotland, said he planned to channel his grief into continuing his father’s work by helping others through a new charity, the Edinburgh-based Akong Rinpoche Foundation, which he set up in the wake of his father’s death to provide health and educational aid in Tibetan areas of China, India, and Nepal.
“[My father] always wanted to help people. He was a very special man,” said Tarap. “I don't want to focus on the negative side of the case, I want to think of the positive side, where we can really build and carry on his work. That’s really important for me and the family.” (Herald Scotland)
Akong Rinpoche, who was 73 at the time of his death, was born in 1939 near Riwoq in eastern Tibet. As a small child, he was recognized as the incarnation of the previous Akong, the abbot of Dolma Lhakang Monastery near Chamdo. At the age of four he was taken to Dolma Lhakang to receive an education that included religion and traditional Tibetan medicine. Akong Rinpoche fled Tibet via India in 1959 following the failed uprising against Chinese rule, eventually taking British citizenship. In 1967, he co-founded the Kagyu Samye Ling monastery and Buddhist retreat, home to more than 60 monastics and volunteers, in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway. Students of the center have included musicians David Bowie and Leonard Cohen, and comedian Billy Connolly. Akong Rinpoche also helped thousands of needy people through health, educational, and cultural projects in Nepal, Tibet, and in Zimbabwe and South Africa through the charitable organization ROKPA International, which he founded.
“My father was an amazing person,” Tarap said. “Although he had many followers and students, he was one of the most humble people you would meet. He didn’t think himself as anyone special.” (Herald Scotland)
Since the court handed down the death sentence, family and friends of Akong Rinpoche have appealed to the government of China for clemency for the convicted killers. Akong Rinpoche’s brother, Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, who is the abbot of Kagyu Samye Ling and His Holiness the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, have both urged that the death penalty not be imposed on the defendants.
Tarap echoed the call for clemency. “We have made the family’s point of view very clear. There should be no death penalty,” he said. “I believe compassion is the right way to go. I think it is a lifestyle you live, we are brought up as Buddhists, we are brought up to have compassion and have faith.” (Herald Scotland)
Tarap said he also hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps by completing reconstruction of Dolma Lhakang Monastery in eastern Tibet and by setting up a medical clinic in his memory in a remote area where people would otherwise have to travel two days to reach a doctor.
“If you are a Buddhist and you believe in Buddhism, you should, as my father said, always forgive and have compassion in your heart,” Tarap said. (Herald Scotland)
Murdered Buddhist lama's son vows to continue his legacy... with compassion for his father's killers (Herald Scotland)
After death sentence, family and friends of Scotland's murdered Buddhist lama plead for clemency (Herald Scotland)
Friends of murdered Rinpoche plead for mercy for attackers (Lion’s Roar)
China sentences two men to death in killing of Tibetan religious leader (Reuters)
Chöje Akong Rinpoche obituary (The Guardian)
Kayu Samye Ling
Akong Rinpoche Foundation