Question: How does one stop making the story real? Sometimes I feel the story, my narrative is so crystalized and I can watch a pattern happen again and again and it’s frustrating to continue repeating the same hurtful patterns. I am interested in learning to keep my heart open, even though it’s scary.

Dear Friend,

That is a question I bet everyone can relate to! But first, let’s take a moment to rejoice in your ability to recognize a pattern that does not serve you, because that marks the beginning of the possibility for change. Furthermore, it is remarkable that you have an aspiration to open your heart and face it even though it is scary. That’s brave.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how crucial it is to identify where we have “agency” in our lives, and why we sometimes forfeit our agency either knowingly or unknowingly to make choices that don’t support our own or other’s wellbeing. By “agency” I am referring to our ability to make sane and conscious choices that allow us to bring our actions together with our intention to lead a sane and healthy life. I thought I would take your question as an opportunity to see if I could identify some choices in the context of a stuck and painful narrative—kind of like a helpful game.

Yes, it can be painfully hard to change our narrative—the way we see the world and who we are in it. I think it is important to begin by recognizing that there are many things we cannot control: old age, sickness, death, loss, a traumatic event, the pervasiveness of suffering in the world. We live downstream from infinite causes and conditions, and inherit both helpful and unhelpful narratives from our parents and culture. And so we will never know why we see the world as we do in any given moment. There is no singular cause for it, although I’m sure we can connect some of the dots and identify patterns and situations that have influenced the way we experience things. And it seems important to recognize that there is something quite innocent in our noble search for happiness. Being human is all very humbling, isn’t it?

In our pursuit of genuine wellbeing, if we are lucky, we will run into a quiet but potent irony:  genuine happiness demands that we allow ourselves to feel “profound disappointment” in life. What I mean is that life doesn’t necessarily lend itself to our preferences. We are not in total command. Of course, the Buddha pointed this out from the very beginning…but it just seems very hard for most people to accept, doesn’t it? However, to accept how things as they are is a powerful and freeing CHOICE. We might consider this choice seriously. In the buddhadharma, we call this choice “taking refuge”.

Given the state of the human condition, let’s now look at some choices we can make:

Choice #1: Accepting

I will define choice #1 as our choice to place our unhelpful narratives into a bigger context. What is this context? Seeing that everything that comes to be does so due to limitless causes and conditions. For instance, the way we see ourselves and the world is not due to a singular linear cause. Two children growing up in the same household who go to the same school will see the world in completely different ways. One child might be introspective, while the other one might be gregarious. They will have different relationships with their parents, and from a young age they will begin to develop their own narratives and strategies for dealing with life: one might  take on the responsibility for keeping everyone else’s emotional life together, the other may push people away, or find unhealthy ways to distract herself. Of course we have healthy narratives as well. But the point is, there is no singular truth about how things are, and that the way individuals view the world is based on limitless contingencies, most of which we can’t even identify.

So when we place our story into the bigger context of infinite contingencies, its truth is challenged, and it begins to fall apart a bit. To look at the nature of causes and conditions allows just a little bit of air into our hermetically sealed narrative. We begin to see that, yes, we can read patterns, but in a bigger way, we only ever see a piece of things. We might begin to doubt our story a little: “Maybe it is not so seamless after all.” To recognize that our story finds its place in the natural play of contingent relationships, is a very kind thing to do for ourselves because it protects us from being a “knower” who tries to justify her story by simply laying blame on another person or situation. How can we free ourselves from our narrative when we are always looking for a logic to reinforce it? What is it they say?: “While holding a hammer everything looks like a nail.” When we disrupt the logic of our story through placing it in a bigger context, all of a sudden the mind becomes humble, curious, and poised for seeing things in a fresh way.

Choice #2: Owning It

Continue reading


(Serves 6.)
4 tbs vegetable oil
2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced in fine half rings (including green)
6 medium-sized mushrooms, wiped with a damp cloth and sliced
1 teaspoon of salt

Medium or coarse-grained bulgar wheat, measured to the 15fl oz level in a glass,  measuring jug, or weighed.

Heat the oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame.  Put in the spring onions and saute them for 30 seconds.  Now add the mushrooms and saute for another minute.  Add the bulgar wheat and the salt.  Stir and saute for another minute or until the grains of wheat are coated with the oil.  Now add 1 pt of water and bring to the boil.  Cover, turn the heat to very low and simmer gently for 25 minutes.  Turn off the heat.  Put a tea towel between the lid and the pot, covering quickly so as not to dissipate the heat.  Leave in a warm place for another 20 minutes.  The wheat will puff up and not turn soggy.  

Extracted from Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey





In ACTIVISM by Kim Roberts6 Comments

I live a short drive away from what was, until recently, known as the sex-change capital of the world: Trinidad, Colorado. As more people explore the option to alter their biology, gender issues have surfaced in so many ways it’s hard to recognize certain facets of culture we used to take for granted. There is no longer a ladies room or a men’s room for that matter in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. My Indian friend was aghast to learn recently that her 18 year old daughter’s dorm at Princeton has co-ed shower rooms, with flimsy shower curtain separating her from the male students in the adjacent stall. At a program I recently taught at a university, I was instructed to refer to one particular student as they, despite appearing as a young woman, they did not identify as either male or female. So they was not a she, as I had assumed.

These cultural changes provide the backdrop for a larger issue coming to light: gender equality and specifically, women’s rights. Is it a coincidence that the gender issue is arising at same time as #metoo? It seems there are two issues: gender fluidity and gender equality. We seem to be asking collectively, what is gender? And how do we implement basic human rights, and authentic gender equality, in the face of its evolving nature?

Gender is a mental construct: From an ultimate perspective, it’s fantastic we are disposing with entrenched labels. From another, I wonder: are we simply creating new trenches? Labels are still mental constructs, even if they do replace worn-out ideas. HH 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje notes:

“The social meaning of our biological differences is created by our ideas about gender that is, what gender means socially is determined by the mind, and not by the body. Masculine and feminine are fabricated identities that societies create, not nature.”

“Although gender constructs are mere concepts, we can see that they can be terribly powerful forces that shape our experiences and affect how we treat others.”



I think the most important question we can ask is not, how do women get equality in an era of patriarchy, but rather: What does an authentic, empowered masculine look like? Because if we keep insisting on equal rights for women based on a lopsided paradigm, we are going to end up in a different unbalanced situation, on the other side of the spectrum. It’s up to each of us to identify our inner masculine and feminine -something we contemplate in any tantric tradition- and develop a sane relationship to those energies. And this can’t be done on the sidewalks of Washington DC. As helpful as social activism can be, I think most of what confronts us as we untangle the knots of patriarchy is inner work.

Karmapa writes:

“When a problem is rooted in society’s habitual outlook and habitual thinking, then legislating change will have limited effect. After all, you cannot legislate a change in thinking.”

What does equality look like? 

It is long overdue for women’s rights, and safety, to be given the respect it deserves. But equal does not mean identical. Equality denotes balance, fairness, a portioning out of things so that everyone ends up with an advantage, no one with an advantage over another. But how can we assure fairness when each has our own karma?

Karmapa continues:

“Women’s rights have to do with respecting the value of human life and freedom. It has to do with acknowledging our shared humanity and the basic human bonds that link us.”

Obviously the biological roles of men and women differ, so it’s never quite made sense to me how we can be equal. What would make more sense is to aspire to treat each and every human being with an equal amount of kindness and respect.

Equality Or Ahimsa? As we evolve into more acceptance of gender fluidity, and more awareness of gender equality, it seems to me that what we need more than a tired concept of equality. The real issue at stake here is ahimsa. Kindness and acceptance, or at least a commitment not to cause harm. Equality has to do with ahimsa.

Gender Fluidity: It’s interesting that the vast majority of sex reassignments are male to female. From a darker perspective, you might take the gender fluidity we now insist upon as another attempt to appropriate the feminine. This darker view might see the patriarchy plotting against women as we stand up and demand justice from oppressors. As if saying: society accepts this shift in consciousness, then let’s attack the very foundation. Let’s deny the paradigm of femininity itself. We’ll kill mother nature at its root – denying the importance of our physiological roles, and so anyone who wants to can simply change their minds and decide to call themselves something different.

So when I hear about gender fluidity, and the pronoun they I have a hard time understanding. It seems pretty clear to me that if you have monthly periods and the ability to bear children, you are a woman. If you don’t have this possibility, then you are a man. Forgive me if this seems to black and white, but manand woman are different than masculine and feminine.

From a Meditation Viewpoint: Mind is neither male and female. All of my teachers have taught that both men and women have an equal opportunity to attain enlightenment. But Padmasambhava is recorded as saying that all other factors being equal, a woman is more likely to achieve enlightenment:

“The basis for realizing enlightenment is a human body. Male or female, there is no great difference. But if she develops the mind bent on enlightenment the woman’s body is better.”

This then begs the question: where are all the women teachers in Tibetan Buddhism? And how do we contextualize – and accept – the sexual escapades of male teachers? 
Tenzin Palmo asked her teacher Khamtrul Rinpoche why he thought there were not more female incarnations. He replied:

”My sister had more signs at the time of her birth than I did, and when she was arriving everybody said, ‘wow, this must be some really special being coming.’ but as soon as she was born, they said, ‘Oh, we made a mistake!’ You see, if she had been male, they immediately would have tried to find out who this child was, and he would have been given a very special kind of upbringing. Because she was only female, she was not given a chance. She had to marry and so on. This was the problem,that even if you came back as a female it would be very difficult to receive the kind of training and opportunities you could get as a male.”

Karmapa writes in his book, The Heart Is Noble:

“ I think a note of caution is in order here. Although there may be aspects of Buddhist teachings that can help us in thinking more wisely about gender issues, I want to warn you against looking to Buddhist societies to provide ideal examples of healthy gender constructs and practices. You should expect to come across things you do not want to adopt for yourself. Not everything in Buddhist institutions is perfect, and this is certainly the case when it comes to gender discrimination.”

I appreciate the openness and honesty of recent months, but where does this leave us? I have watched over and over the splitting of sanghas due to the misbehaviour of teachers. And yes, #metoo.

#metoo: I was groped by one of my yoga teachers, Pattabhi Jois. I did not speak up. Nor did any of the other many women I knew who he had touched inappropriately. Why did we remain silent? Because our voices had been cut off at an early age: the rule as a young lady is that you don’t cause conflict or confront injustice directly. I hope this movement of sharing can help us show up and educate men and women to be kind and decent human beings, so we can shift the tide to make respecting women and the power of the feminine the norm and not the exception.
Karmapa writes:

“If we continue to devalue what women have to offer, we will continue harming women and continue overlooking and devaluing these virtues that are considered feminine and these are precisely the virtues that the world needs most now.”

Letting go of identity: How do we as practitioners let go of fixation on identities while acknowledging this re-balancing of power. How do we say with a straight face that there is no gender, while supporting a woman’s right for basic human dignity and respect?  I understand the value in thinking about ourselves as human, rather than as men or women. But middle path is not neither. Middle path arises when we have 2 distinct polarities that play off of each other. If we lose the polarity, we lose the juice. Karmapa reminds us that gender constructs are nothing more than social fabrications.

Without attention to the details of our worldly experience, the fabric of our society may unravel. As practitioners our greatest contribution is to embody the wisdom of a larger view while embracing compassion as we meet each individual.


Kim Roberts


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A graduate of Naropa University’s M.A. Contemplative Psychology program, Kim Roberts has been a devoted student of Ashtanga yoga and Dharma since 1992. She spent 15 years living in South Asia and now makes her home in Crestone, Colorado, where she is finishing her second book, Toward A Secret Sky: A Guide To The Art Of Modern Pilgrimage, to be released in Spring 2019. She also makes encaustic art. Learn more at KimRoberts.co or KimRobertsArt.com

Originally published in Levekunst


How can we best prepare ourselves for death?


That’s the same way, actually. In a way, the way you prepare others for death and the way you prepare yourself for death is more or less similar. You have to see what would work and what would not work for yourself. It’s important that as a practitioner facing death you try to prepare yourself, because when you are prepared then you don’t leave things unfinished. If you have a property, or if you have money you do whatever is necessary, you just give them to whoever you want to give to, make things clear, so that there are no problems afterwards for those left behind, fighting and things like that. Then you can concentrate on your own path and not on other irrelevant things.

Also, I think that it is important that in your life maybe you have done some good things, maybe not so good things but that’s all past so we have to forgive everything, forgive everybody, including yourself and then start a new way of life, from now. The past is past, whatever I have done, something not so good, that’s ok, it’s done, finished; if it’s something good, that’s very good. Now this moment I don’t have to feel guilty, I don’t have to feel bad about things because there’s nothing I can do about it, it’s all done but now I don’t hold onto it, I start fresh in a positive way because if I can do that, that’s the best purification.

So, about yourself, you just do what you want, really preparing yourself to die, be ready to die and then concentrate on your practice, inspire yourself, remind yourself of the teachings, listen to inspiring teachings and as much as possible you can kind of put your mind on something positive. That’s why thinking about the Buddha, thinking about the Buddha realms like the realm of Amitabha, or any other Buddha, whatever is interesting to you and also listen to the teachings of Bardo and things like that is also important. And if you can read yourself, or listen or otherwise if you cannot listen then whatever abilities you have, the main thing is that as everybody has to die, then just get ready for it, just let go, relax and don’t hang onto anything positive or negative of the past, just let go.

Q- Would Rinpoche say that we die as we have lived, that our experience of death reflects the engagement we have had with dharma and life generally?

Of course, we die as we live, it is about a state of mind, it’s not so much what I do but how I experience. So whatever happens, if I have certain emotions, strong emotion like too much attachment, too much ignorance, too much anger, too much fear then that can become stronger so therefore what I experience in my life now creates the circumstances for what I do in the practice; that we try to let go of our fear and our aversion and attachment are the three most important things. And if you can a have a little bit of control or have a little bit less aversion, less attachment, less fear and not too much clinging then I think you can face death with much more clarity, much more confidence.

So, therefore, it’s like that but when we are in a disturbed state of mind at the time of death, death is not easy, death is not always easy, it can be a challenging time. Some people are lucky and they don’t have much pain but, because of different circumstances, different diseases, different situations, some people have more pain, some have less pain. But the most important thing is that the life has to be a preparation for the death, the practice for life is actually the practice for death. If we look into most of the vajrayana practices, the sadhanas, the creation stage and the completion stage practices, all of them are actually a direct preparation for death, this is very important to understand.

Ringu Tulku Rinpoche

Article first appeared in Living and Dying in Peace


The Heart Sutra


A New Translation from the Chinese by Hanh Niêm with Commentary

Prajna Paramita Hridaya – Heart of Perfected Wisdom

The Bodhisattva Avelokiteshvara,
Practicing the perfection of wisdom, going deep within,
Was illuminated and perceived that
All five skandhas are empty of intrinsic existence.
Thus being at one with all things,
Experiencing things directly without the intervention of thought,
All suffering and doubt ceased.

Shariputra, the appearance of form is not separate from emptiness,
Emptiness is not separate from the appearance of form,
The appearance of form is one with emptiness,
Emptiness is one with appearance of form.
The same is true for feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness-ego.

Shariputra, all dharmas – all appearance of phenomena – are mutually empty:
There is neither birth nor death,
Neither defilement nor purity,
Neither gain nor loss. Continue reading

Tofu Sushi Bowl


100g/3½oz firm tofu, drained

50g/1¾oz sushi rice

25g/1oz frozen soya beans

low-calorie cooking spray

4 radishes, thinly sliced

¼ small cucumber, halved lengthways, seeds removed, cut into thin matchsticks

¼ small carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

3 spring onions, thinly shredded

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1 tbsp Japanese pickled ginger, drained, to serve

For the dressing

½ lime, finely grated zest and juice

½ level tsp runny honey

½ tbsp tamari or dark soy sauce

½ tsp rice vinegar

dash toasted sesame oil

To make the sushi bowl, wrap the tofu in kitchen paper, sandwich between two plates or chopping boards and weigh down with a few tins from your cupboard. Leave to drain for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and boil the sushi rice for 8–10 minutes, or until just cooked. Drain, place back in the pan, cover and set aside.

Bring a small saucepan of water to the boil and cook the soya beans for 2 minutes, or until tender. Drain, refresh under cold water and set aside.

To make the dressing, put the lime zest, juice and honey in a small saucepan and simmer for 1 minute. Stir in the tamari, vinegar and sesame oil and set aside.

Cut the tofu into 1.5cm/½in cubes. Spray a large frying pan with a little low-calorie cooking spray and place over a medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook for 1 minute on each side until crisp and golden brown.

Place the rice in a bowl or lunchbox and stir in the dressing. Top with the soya beans, radishes, cucumber, carrot and two-thirds of the spring onions. Sprinkle over the tofu, remaining spring onions and sesame seeds and serve with the pickled ginger or place in the fridge until ready to eat.

Generating Water from a Backpack

One of the most vital resources on the planet may soon be readily available in your backpack.A professor of mechanical engineering is leading a research team to develop a lightweight, battery-powered pack that can harvest water from the air—as many as 10 gallons per hour— even in arid locations.The nanofiber-based harvester could help address modern water shortages due to climate change, industrial pollution, droughts and groundwater depletion, especially in dry parts of California, Africa and China. This will also aid residents in South America who live atop mountain ranges higher than rain clouds.

“I was visiting China, which has a freshwater scarcity problem,” said Dr. Shing-Chung Wong of the University of Akron. “There’s investment in wastewater treatment, but I thought that effort alone was inadequate.”

He figured it would be more prudent to develop a water harvester that could take advantage of abundant water particles in the atmosphere.

To miniaturize water generation and improve the efficiency, Wong and his UA students turned to electrospun polymers. Electrospinning uses electrical forces to produce polymer fibers ranging from tens of nanometers up to 1 micrometer — an ideal size to condense and squeeze water droplets out of the air. These nanoscale fiber polymers offer a much larger surface-area-to-volume ratio than that provided by the typical structures and membranes used in water distillers.

By experimenting with different combinations of polymers that were hydrophilic — which attracts water — and hydrophobic — which discharges water, the team concluded that a water harvesting system could indeed be fabricated using nanofiber technology.

Unlike existing methods, Wong’s harvester could work in arid desert environments because of the membrane’s high surface-area-to-volume ratio. It also would have a minimal energy requirement.

The appearance of the portable water harvester depends on the end-use applications. The envisioned design looks much like a backpack.

“We could confidently say that, with recent advances in lithium-ion batteries, we could eventually develop a smaller, backpack-sized device,” Wong said.

What’s more, Wong’s nanofiber design simultaneously grabs water and filters it, thus the water would be free of pollutants and immediately drinkable.

Next, Wong hopes to obtain additional funding to build a prototype of the freshwater harvester. He anticipates that, once his team is able to produce the prototype, it should be inexpensive to manufacture.

(Source: University of Akron)

The Good News Network

Radish Achar मुलाको अचर

2 cups of small pieces of radish
1/2 cup of sesame seeds
1 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon of mango powder
1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds

Cut the radish into small pieces.  Bleach in salt water for about 5 minutes and then boil.   Roast the sesame seeds lightly without using any oil till they pop.  Grind the sesame seeds.  Mix the radish with chili powder, sesame powder and salt.  Squeeze the lemon juice over it.  Fry the fenugreek seeds till they turn black and add the turmeric.  Pour over the radish.  Add a few drops of water.  Mix well and serve.


Honoring the Child’s Unique Song

An excerpt from Dr. Jaiya John’s book Reflection Pond: Nurturing Wholeness in Displaced Children. A compassionate guide for professionals and caregivers.

EACH OF US is born with an essence–a distinctive nature or character. An inclination peculiar to us alone pulls us toward some things and away from others. While we commonly understand this as personality, this truth has been honored in world cultures for centuries in a more textured sense.

Many African communities have long held that each spirit born into the world carries its own unique song. This song represents the rhythm, frequency, and flavor of life that strikes the chords of the child’s spirit with the greatest degree of harmony. It is her way of being. Her nature. Her song is her reason for having been brought into the world. She carries a package she must deliver, an insight to join into the collective awareness of her people.

When a woman in such a community becomes pregnant, a tradition occurs, varying according to the particular tribal culture. Here is a general depiction: The expecting woman gathers her female family members and friends. They venture out away from the compound, away from the children and men and the daily noise of society. Surrounded by listening trees and sitting close to Earth, the women form a circle.

They have a singular purpose in being here: to recognize the song of this new life on its way. They spend many moments in silence, so that they can hear what nature speaks to them. Back in the compound, commotion would drown out these voices.

Protected by shade clouds from the determined sun, they laugh together and tell stories. Laughing and storytelling create good vibrations that loosen clumps of dirt blocking the unseen rivers they wear like a skirt. Inspiration begins to flow.

At times they join hands, the two closest to the waiting mother cradling her affectionately like a small child. Waiting mother massages her belly. She is not just soothing her baby, she is receiving what that precious life is already voicing. This may seem like folly to us who inhabit a reality of the tangible and who often scorn what cannot be seen. But what is the nature of all things but energy? And how does energy exist but through vibration? How are we to notice and understand a vibration except by letting it dance into us?

Night emerges to greet the circle of women. Truthfully, some of them are impatient. They want the song to come so they can get back to their lives. But this ritual is sewn into the fabric of their lives. It is what their heritage has delivered them. They have the context in which to understand this ritual’s value.


Some children sing louder from their mother’s belly in the night. Some become brazen in the morning. Note by note, the song emerges. The song is a love song to the world: Prepare yourselves. I am come. Beat the drum.


The women begin to share with each other what they are intuiting about this new child. Intuition is all we have in this world. Many of us do not believe in our intuition so it becomes a rusted tool left on the floor of our despair. These women cannot imagine not believing in a gift such as this. When they intuit, they speak what they have received to each other without self-consciousness or worrying about what the others will think.


To lie about what one intuits of a child, or to cloak that intuition in the clothes of what we desire of that child-these are bad tidings. They bring harm to the child, to the family, and to the community. Because all relationships based upon a false or disguised intuition about the child wreak havoc.

It is like being sold a bag of what we are told are melon seeds when in fact the bag contains flower seeds. Then we go about happily planting our seeds, congratulating ourselves; salivating at our expected harvest. When the harvest we expect does not come, we curse the seeds. But the seeds have done nothing wrong. They were flowers all along.

Our faulty understanding of the seeds’ nature is behind our disappointment and frustration. What’s more, conflicted about our failed expectations for the seeds, we fail to realize that we have been blessed by flowers. Their beauty escapes us because our limited understanding demands that they be something else.

Our children are those flower seeds. In this African setting the women continue to share what is being revealed to them about the nature-song of this child. The waiting mother’s intuition is given the highest authority. This is true except in cases when an elder woman present deciphers something that helps clarify the mother’s understanding of her child.


The child’s song unfolds: I am a boisterous spirit; you must allow me voice and room to move and roam. I am a quiet child; you must grant me my silence. I am a teacher, please nurture my skills. I am meant to feel things deeply; I will use this for being a healer. I am small, but my vision is large; our people would do well to fall into it and drown.

Waiting mother and the other women reach an accord on their initial understanding of this new life on its way. This recognition of song has been the first sacred step in preparing to relate to the child in a way that will create wholeness. Wholeness depends upon being seen, recognized, and understood accurately. This is why one of the most important questions between people in many of these grandparent cultures is: Do you see me?


The women return to the compound and gather the people around them. Again in a circle, the women announce to the community what they have learned about the song of this new life on the way. At this point, the broader community begins its responsibility for constructing the understanding necessary to honor the child. Parents initiate conversations with their children about the waiting mother, her family, and the new child. Young people question their elders about the same. This is how we begin to prepare a safe space, a greenhouse for wholeness to grow.

A child is come! Go beat the drum! The compound of children and adults, each with a conscious stake in the new life on its way, eagerly sing the child’s song during the pregnancy; not only to the child but to each other. This way, when the child emerges and begins crawling, walking, running through the community, she encounters people and places that have been drenched in her essence. What a wonderful way to make her feel beautiful!

The song is the family’s and community’s way of saying to the child, We recognize and honor that this is who you are. The song represents values, beliefs, personality, talents, life purpose, preferences–all of who she is.

Everyone’s eagerness to sing comes from a simple understanding: that for each child who suffers in life there is a community that also suffers. For each child who thrives is a people who thrive. The degree of suffering or thriving in a child is mirrored by the amount of suffering or thriving in her people. This is a law that never changes.

The new child is bathed in her own song during her gestation; she receives this nourishment just as she receives nourishment through her umbilicus. She gestates in a bath of validation, celebration, and understanding. She is sung into beauty before she draws her first breath.

At the moment of her birth, among her first sensations are the sounds of her family and community singing to her. Along with the stark contrasts of cold air and bright light outside of the womb, she is wrapped in the warm blanket of recognition: Welcome new child! We see you. We have planted good seeds in you. You are a seed who grows in us. You are not alone in this world. We are each other. You will never be alone. This is a good way to begin a life.

During the important landmarks of the child’s life, her loving people caress her with her song. When she learns to crawl, walk, or run, there is the song. When she learns to speak, there is the song. On her birthdays, on her first day of school, she is greeted in song. When she first menstruates she is initiated by song into the deeper meaning of her transformation. She is not allowed to breed shame inside herself for becoming a woman.

The older she grows and the more she develops, the more she dictates the nature of her song and teaches it to her people. She is the best teacher that can ever be of her song. She is granted her divinely endowed right to teach the world what she has been brought here to share.


Being imperfect, the child will struggle. This is a time when her people gather around her with determination. They sing to her more forcefully than ever. They have come to return her to herself. They recognize that punishment does not cause a struggling child to recover her vision of self. Discipline does. Discipline is a hard reminder of who we are and why we are. It snaps us back to our intended path.

In collective social harmony she receives the message: Dear child, you are forgetting yourself. You are losing your footing. The Earth beneath you does not change. The way in which you step has changed. Remember how you began. Remember why you are. Remember the truth of how you are to be. In Nepalese culture there is a term for this. Shanti ko Samjhana: Remembering Peace. This refers to the peace of the womb, the peace of our natural state, and the peace of self-understanding.

Be true to yourself. This is the one and only Yurok Indian law. Imagine how powerful this manifestation must be for a people to hold it as their essential law. When we are true to ourselves, health and prosperity flow from that cup. Most personal and social despair can be traced back to individuals failing to be true to their nature and purpose. Trueness implies the child knows herself; believes in herself; understands her purpose; and has faith that being true to that purpose and to her nature will yield a bountiful life for her and the circle of life she inhabits.

The African village sings to the child to remind her of who she herself has told them she is. They sing to say: You are not being true to yourself. All of your suffering is a polluted water springing from the source which is your self-betrayal. They sing so she can find her way back through her blindness to the clearing of her recognition. They sing her back home.

When the woman who was once the child becomes an elder, she is crowned with her song–a harmony always evolving as she evolves. At the moment her seasons on Earth have ended and she passes into all things, oh what a glorious song comes out: Our dear child has become all things! She joins us now in the trees and the sky, in the water and the wind. She has not left us. She is all around us. She will visit us as she wishes, to teach again. A soul learns many things when it sits at the feet of all things. Immersed in affirming harmony, this child has lived a good life.


Dr. Jaiya John’s book Reflection Pond: Nurturing Wholeness in Displaced Children, is a compassionate guide for professionals and caregivers. It is available online where books are sold. Learn more about Jaiya’s books at jaiyajohn.com.
SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. To submit an article, essay, or story to be considered for publication in Soul Blossom, content must have a humanitarian focus, be under 1,500 words, and be the sole intellectual property of the submitting author. Submit to soulblossom@soulwater.org.



In ANIMALS by Kathleen Prasad12/16/20154 Comments

You see, in my work with animals and Reiki over the years, I began to notice something interesting; when I would meditate and my animals would happen to be with me, I found myself able to quiet my mind and be present with an open heart much more easily. I realized that perhaps I should rethink the way I approached my own meditation practice. Meditating alone is all well and good, offering many benefits that have been backed by science. But when I began to meditate with the animals and follow their lead, all of the benefits of meditation I had always experienced began to improve. Here are three ways animals helped me become a better meditator:

1. It’s easier to stay present and peaceful in the moment with our animals. If we are trying to meditate but our intellectual minds keep analyzing, judging and interpreting everything (which is just natural for us, really), the animals will often mirror this agitation. The more we feel ourselves shift into a state of quiet, and the more we can just “be,” the more we can see the animals relax. I can always tell what state I am in by how the animals around me are responding to my presence. A peaceful mind and peaceful heart means peaceful animals. In addition, animals have a natural calming presence. So when we have trouble letting go, and we’re stuck inside past problems or future fears, simply sitting with our animals can help to calm our energy, quiet our thoughts and take us to this moment right now.









2. Animals help our hearts to open, so that we can more easily radiate our inner compassion. According to a 2013 study by Northeastern University, those who practice mindfulness meditation feel more compassion for others. But sometimes, compassion can be a difficult feeling to tap into. That’s where the animal factor comes in: Animals show so much unconditional love for us, we just can’t help but open our hearts when we are with them. If we are with our animals during our meditation practice, our inner compassion arises effortlessly because we are already opening our hearts to our animals at that moment. This compassion will radiate out to all animals … and even ultimately to the world.









3. Animals remind me that the true purpose of meditation is to bring peaceful presence out into the world. Some people think, “Oh, I have to light a candle and sit on this cushion to meditate.” And that sometimes works well, but it’s also very limiting. Meditation isn’t about escaping the world, shutting our eyes and sitting in a stiff position. The most important purpose of meditation is to bring compassion to our lives, and the truth is we have to learn to take our practice off of the cushion, bringing this compassion with us into the world. What the animals teach us by their compassionate presence is very freeing: That truly any moment in our lives can be a meditation. We can practice peaceful presence while sitting, walking or standing—cuddling our cat, walking the dog or standing in a pasture with our horse. You see, this is how our animals live already, and they can show us how to live this way too.

Meditation is about bringing all of our energy here to this present moment, and opening our hearts to the peaceful power that exists in the now. Animals are always present, they don’t judge like we do, and they live life with an open heart. They are my best meditation partners: mirrors, reflecting to me how I should be, and lights, guiding me along the path of inner healing.




Animal Reiki teacher, author, mostly-vegan, animal advocate, passionate meditator and dragon-at-heart. Founder of Animal Reiki Source and co-founder of The Shelter Animal Reiki Association. Compassion is the ultimate healer! My website & blog.

First published in Levenkunst.




The Ringu Tulku Archive



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Chilli Haw Ketchup

This is one helluva ketchup meets brown sauce baby. There is nothing like Chilli Haw Ketchup to put some fire in the belly this winter. It’s got an amazing taste, sweet and sour, peppery, tangy, umami. I remember Chinese haw flakes from when I was a child. This is that taste but with a grown up kick. Use as a condiment, marinade or just with cheese.

750 grams haws (no stalks)
500 ml vinegar (homemade or apple cider)
500ml water
250 grams dark brown sugar
2 red chilli peppers
Black pepper to taste

Simmer the haws and the chilli peppers in the water and vinegar until the flesh is really soft. Strain the mixture through a wire sieve. Push the berries around the sieve with the back of a spoon, trying to get as much of the pulp as possible through the sieve. (An ideal job to delegate!)

Return to the pan and add the sugar and black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce is thick. Pour into sterilised glass jars or bottles with a reasonably wide neck. Keep in a dark cupboard – the flavour just keeps on improving with age.

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The Benefits of Saving Lives by Chatral Rinpoche


I bow down before the Lama, Buddha Amitāyus,
And the bodhisattvas in training.
I shall now in brief describe the benefits
Of freeing animals and ransoming their lives.

To save animals from slaughter or any mortal danger,
With entirely pure motivation and conduct,
Is without doubt a practice to be taken up
By all followers of the Buddha Śākyamuni.
Many are the sūtras, tantras and commentaries
Which describe in detail the advantages it brings,
And countless learned and accomplished masters of India and Tibet
Have stressed the value and importance of benefitting beings.
Even in the basic vehicle one avoids inflicting harm on others.
In the mahāyāna this is the very training of a bodhisattva,
And in the secret mantra, a principal samaya of the ratna family.

The reasoning behind this is as follows: in this world,
Nothing is as dear to someone as his or her own life,
So there is no greater crime than taking life away,
And no conditioned virtue brings greater merit
Than the act of saving beings and ransoming their lives.
Therefore, should you wish for happiness and good,
Exert yourself in this, the most supreme of paths,
Which is proven through scriptures and through reasoning,
And is free of obstacles and potential dangers.

Consider your own body, and, with this as an example,
Avoid doing anything that might bring harm to others.
Make every effort not to kill any living creature—
Birds, fish, deer, cattle and even tiny insects—
And strive instead to save their lives,
Offering them protection from every fear.
The benefit of doing so is beyond imagining.
This is the best practice for your own longevity,
And the greatest ritual for the living or deceased.
It is my main practice of benefitting others.
It dispels all external and internal adversity and obstacles;
Effortlessly and spontaneously, it brings favourable conditions;
And, when inspired by the noble mind of bodhicitta and
Completed with dedication and pure aspiration prayers,
It will lead one to complete enlightenment,
And the accomplishment of one’s own and others’ welfare—
Of this you need have no doubts at all!

Those whose minds incline to virtue and acts of merit
Should prohibit hunting and fishing on their land.
Some birds, in particular, such as geese and cranes,
Are impelled by their karma to migrate
And fly south in autumn, north in spring.
At times, weary from the efforts of their flight,
Or having lost their way, some are forced to land,
Distressed, afraid and anxious; when this happens,
You should not throw stones or shoot at them,
Nor try to kill them or do them any harm.
Protect them so they may easily fly once more.
To offer care and affection to sentient beings
In desperate situations who lack protection
Brings just as much merit as the meditation
On emptiness with compassion as its core—
So it has been said by glorious Lord Atiśa.

Lamas, officials, monks, nuns, men and women,
In all the places over which you have control,
Exert every influence and do all within your power
To release animals and ransom their lives,
While encouraging others to do the same.

In all those places where this is done,
Sickness among people and livestock will cease,
Harvests will be plentiful and life will be long.
All will enjoy happiness and wellbeing in abundance,
And at death let go of deluded experience,
Before finding an excellent rebirth within the higher realms.
Ultimately, there is no doubt that this will lead one easily
To find the supreme and perfect state of awakening.

In response to the request of Doctor Dordrak,
Who offered a pure silk scarf and a hundred Nepali rupees,
The one called Chatral Sangye Dorje,
Who strives continuously to ransom lives,
Wrote down spontaneously whatever came to mind.
By the merit of this may all sentient beings
Come to practise enlightened actions!

Mamakoling samanta!

Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2005.

Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Choje Akong Tulku Rinpoche

Vin Harris talks about the life of a remarkable man



Samye Ling Tibetan Centre,                         Eskdalemuir, Scotland

I knew Akong Rinpoche as a friend and teacher for about forty years. Between 1978 and 1988, the Samye Ling community under his leadership built the first authentic Tibetan Buddhist temple in the West; it is named after Samye where Buddhism was first established in Tibet. Before his tragic death in 2013, work had started on a documentary film to tell the story of his life. After the shock of losing Rinpoche, it felt more difficult to continue with making the film, and at the same time it felt even more important to share his message of ‘compassion in action’ with as many people as possible.


So in late 2013, I joined the film team as Executive Producer to help bring the project to completion. The film, directed by Chico Dall’Inha, is called ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’. It has already won several awards at international film festivals, and in March 2017 we had the official world première at Samye Ling.


Reincarnation and the Tulkus of Tibetan Buddhism


The 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, at his           inauguration. Photograph by Lea Wyler.

When he arrived in the UK in 1963, Akong Rinpoche’s passport showed his occupation as being “reincarnate Lama”. Within the Tibetan tradition, there is the possibility of lamas who have been of great service to their disciples and to their monastery consciously taking a new rebirth in order to continue their aspiration to help others; when that new reincarnation is found, it is recognised as a ‘Tulku’. One of the purposes of the film is to help us to understand the historical context in which Akong Rinpoche’s life was played out, and this requires some understanding of the notion of Tulkus.

The tradition of intentional incarnation began with the first Karmapa in the twelfth century. The film tells of many instances where Akong Rinpoche’s life was connected with both the 16th Karmapa who was his main guru, and the current 17th Karmapa who will be responsible for finding the next Akong Tulku. Two well-known lamas within Tibet leave predictions regarding the details of their own rebirth; one is the Dalai Lama, and the other is the Karmapa, who is the head of the Kagyu lineage to which Akong Rinpoche belongs. With most Kagyu lamas, the matter of finding their rebirth is normally put into the hands of the Karmapa or sometimes other lamas who are able to find these Tulkus; they will have a vision or a feeling of connection, and are able to describe the place of birth, the names of the parents and sometimes details like the colour of the door of the house. Then, when the time is right, they send out a search party to locate the young Tulku.

This all might seem to be quite a leap of faith for many people in the West; but it may not be so strange if we think of mind as never ceasing and of life as being endless. Perhaps if we see how we can become a product of our limiting habits, then we could envisage the possibility of being a manifestation of our positive intentions. The Tulkus’ intentions continue powerfully from life to life as the fruition of a commitment to help others. The Akong Rinpoche that we knew as a spiritual friend with great compassion and wisdom was considered to be the second incarnation of a line which has a particular connection with medicine, and he continued the association with healing as well as spiritual practice.

The second Akong Rinpoche was born in Dharak, in Kham in Eastern Tibet in 1939, and at the age of two, he was discovered by a party of people looking for the reincarnation of the first Akong, who had been Abbot of Drolma Lhakhang Monastery in Eastern Tibet. Quite often Tulkus are born to fairly poor people living in remote villages, and they regard it as a great honour to have a Tulku born in their family. However, they are taken off to the monastery at a very early age to be brought up by the monks, and the family is prepared to make this sacrifice for the greater good. Although Tulkus may have a very strong compassionate intention to be of use to humanity, they still need education and rigorous training so that they have the means to be able to truly benefit others.

Drolma Lhakhan Monastery during a visit by Akong Rinpoche. Photograph by Lea Wyler.

In the case of Akong Rinpoche, his extensive training as a Tulku included religion and traditional Tibetan medicine, for which he and his predecessor were renowned. It also included experience of profound spiritual practice in isolated retreat. It is becoming apparent that one of the big challenges, as Tibetan Buddhism takes root in the West, is to establish the resources so that young Tulkus can receive this kind of traditional education, and so rekindle their abilities and fulfil their potential.

Escape from Tibet and arrival in the UK

His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s entourage and caravan during his escape to Dromo in 1959. Copyright 2014 Tibet Museum.

In 1951 the Chinese invaded Tibet, and after the failed uprising in 1959, when Akong was just 20 years old, many of the monks felt that they had to flee the country to preserve the culture and lineages of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. So Akong took the decision to leave, and set out with quite a large group of 300 people, led by himself and Trungpa Rinpoche, his childhood companion. They started with mules and horses and various possessions, but gradually all this dwindled until it was really just a matter of trying to survive. The Chinese army closed off all the usual routes, so they ended up walking through some of the most hazardous terrains, over mountains where there were not any tracks at all. They came very close to death, partly through encountering soldiers but also through lack of food. Akong Rinpoche used to talk of boiling up leather in water to just get some nourishment from it, and of living on water for weeks. In theend, only 13 of the group made it to India.

It is significant that even in these extreme conditions they refused to kill anything, because it is a Buddhist principle that all life has the same value. This great compassion was evident in Rinpoche even in these difficult circumstances, and it is something that I witnessed many times later in his life; he made no compromises to his core values. He told the story of when he was in a cave one night, at a time when they really thought they might die of starvation. In a moment of deep reflection he resolved that were he to survive, he wanted be able to help people: in particular, having experienced real hunger, he wanted to be able to feed people. This humanitarian aid was to become a major part of his work in later life. It was not initially in the foreground, but one day while we were building the temple at Samye Ling in the 1980s someone said to Akong Rinpoche: “What is it with you Tibetans? You spend all this money on gold, red paint, beautiful statues and this great big crystal chandelier, but what about helping people?” It is typical of Rinpoche that he thought about this, but rather than feeling that he had to make a choice, he said: “Well, why can’t I do both?” It was always like that; if you ever asked him: “Shall I do this or that?” he would reply: “Well, why can’t you do both?” This incident under the crystal chandelier in the temple was to be the birth of the Rokpa charity, which now works all over the world, feeding people and providing them with health care and education.

Returning to the account of the escape: they did eventually find a road out of Tibet across the Himalayas into a refugee camp in Northern India. What they found there was terrible; all sorts of diseases were rife and people were dying. Then they met an English woman called Freda Bedi, who was originally from Derby. She had an Indian husband, a Sikh called Baba Pyare Lal Bedi. She was living in India, working for the government and ended up being instrumental in helping many young Tibetan lamas, including the Dalai Lama. In later life, she actually became the first English woman to become a Buddhist nun. Her recently published biography entitled The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun is an account of another truly extraordinary life.

Freda Bedi with (on her right) Trungpa Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku and Akong Rinpoche.

Freda Bedi seemed to connect particularly well with Akong Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche. They ended up living in her house along with her own children, one of whom is Kabir Bedi who became a well-known Bollywood actor. She ran schools for the Tibetan refugees, and under the instruction of the 16th Karmapa, she set up the ‘Young Lamas Home School’ to train the monks and prepare them for their new life outside Tibet. The project flourished and she recruited Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche as her assistants.

One of the aims was to find jobs for the refugees, but Akong and Trungpa already had jobs: they were qualified as lamas! So she thought that if they could learn English, they would be able to continue their profession and things would work out well for them. Trungpa Rinpoche was very articulate and well-educated. Akong Rinpoche, although he had of course received a good education, was more inclined towards the way of showing by example and being active. So Freda Bedi obtained a scholarship from the University of Oxford for Trungpa Rinpoche, and the two young lamas were shipped across to England to start the next chapter of their amazing story.

Choje Akong Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche on their maiden voyage on a P&O liner from Bombay, India, via Suez to Great Britain, suggesting this photo was taken off Gibraltar during 1963. Photograph courtesy of Tashi Mannox.

 The founding of Samye Ling

Samye Ling Tibetan Centre, Eskdalemuir,                              Scotland

Once in Oxford, Trungpa studied at St Anthony’s College, and Akong worked as an orderly at the John Radcliffe Hospital to support them both. They were living in a small apartment with some other people. Lama Chime Tulku Rinpoche soon joined them, and slowly they made connections with the Oxford University Buddhist Society. A group of people interested in Buddhism grew up around them, and the idea came up of establishing something a bit more formal. So it was decided that they would start a centre where they could share their knowledge. Having investigated various possibilities, Akong Rinpoche and Trungpa Rinpoche were offered the chance to take over the Buddhist centre at Johnstone House in the Scottish Borders, and Samye Ling was founded in 1967. Lama Chime went on to set up a Buddhist centre at Marpa Housein Essex.


Akong and Trungpa Rinpoche had a very deep relationship. They were like brothers – dharma brothers. They were a similar age, had shared the same teachers, the same lineages, the same transmissions, and their monasteries were relatively close to each other. They were not from the same monastery, but they were not far apart and used to meet up to receive teachings from the same teachers. We might say of old friends “we go back a long way” but within the Tibetan tradition the lamas really do; they can go back many lifetimes. Trungpa was the 11th incarnation of his line, whereas Akong Rinpoche was only the second in his, so Akong Rinpoche tended to stay in the background, seeing his role as looking after Trungpa Rinpoche and facilitating his activity. John Maxwell, a retired judge, who is interviewed in the film, describes how he knew Akong Rinpoche for about ten years before he recognised his amazing qualities because he was so self-effacing.


Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

So, at Samye Ling, initially the arrangement was that Trungpa Rinpoche was the teacher and Akong Rinpoche was the manager who looked after the practical issues. But after some time there was disagreement about how the dharma should be brought to the West. Some students have seen this as a big deal, but Akong Rinpoche never seemed to see it like that; it was nothing personal. His way was to be very cautious. The Tibetans have inherited the lineage of Buddha’s teachings and they know that it works. It is not always obvious why it works, or which bits work, so his view was that it would be wise to be careful to avoid ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’. Akong Rinpoche was always very keen to stick closely to the tradition. Even now in Samye Ling we do not translate the Tibetan texts into English for the practices we do; we chant them in Tibetan because Akong explained that this carries the blessings of all the great lamas. He used to say that when a native English speaker becomes enlightened, then we can translate the texts into English with confidence!

Trungpa Rinpoche, on the other hand, was much more ready to engage freely with the West. He was very charismatic, very learned; he went on to write many wonderful books and they provide great clarity and insight into Buddhist teachings. He wanted to develop the traditional teachings and express them in modern terms. So there was disagreement regarding the approach to bringing Buddhism to the West. In 1970 it culminated in Trungpa leaving to teach the dharma in the USA, in which he was very successful. Even after Trungpa Rinpoche’s departure, Akong Rinpoche remained reluctant to teach and he used to invite other teachers to come to Samye Ling. It was not until the early ’70s that he started to give teachings himself and this was only because people asked His Holiness Karmapa to tell him to do so.

Once Akong Rinpoche had taken over responsibility for Samye Ling, things developed very slowly and gradually; he did not suddenly embark on new projects. Some of his ideas, like Tara Rokpa therapy, took almost 20 years to germinate. His first priority was to teach people the basics of Buddhism: the basic contemplations on the preciousness of human life, impermanence, karma and suffering. He instilled in us a great respect for the lineage, for the Buddha and his teachings. In the West we are so intelligent and well-educated that generally we want to go straight into the highest teachings. But Akong Rinpoche was always clear that we must start with the correct foundations if our practice is to have long-term benefit.


The sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe                                Dorje (1924–81)

The students that Akong Rinpoche encountered at Samye Ling were very different from those he would have had in Tibet. The older generation were mostly ex-Gurdjieff people; they were cultured people but somewhat eccentric. The younger generation like myself were mostly hippies; we were quite unruly, although we did have positive aspirations. Akong Rinpoche talked to us and was willing to meet each of us where we were. Some of my friends really embraced the Buddhist path; they did long retreats and became monks and nuns. Others, like myself, became what in Tibet are called ‘householders’ – practitioners who have families and businesses. But Rinpoche was never judgemental; he did not try to make everyone the same, but helped us to develop within our own situation.


Akong Rinpoche invited many great teachers to bless Samye Ling, and he said many years later that he felt we had built a holy place because it had been visited by these teachers. Rinpoche always had a very clear sense that the most important thing was that Samye Ling should be a place where the Tibetan Buddhist dharma and Kagyu lineage would be preserved. However, it is worth keeping in mind that the ultimate purpose is not to preserve traditions for their own sake, but because they are of great value to a world which desperately needs to be reminded of the vital importance of kindness and compassion.

The three aspects of generosity

Akong Rinpoche during the building of the temple at Samye Ling. www.nic.fi/~lapin/stupa.html

A big change came about at Samye Ling following a visit from the 16th Karmapa in the mid-1970s, when it was decided to embark upon the Samye Project – the building of a temple, a dining room, offices, college buildings and libraries, and so on. As always, Akong Rinpoche dealt with the most important things first and he decided to start with building the temple; so for a while Samye Ling had a temple which could hold 300 people but no additional bedrooms which could accommodate this number of visitors. The legend was that he had about £50 to his name when he began, but his teacher told him to build a temple, so he did.

This was the time when I became seriously involved. I was studying literature at Warwick University when I heard about Samye Ling. So I thought I would visit it for a couple of weeks and then go travelling. But Akong Rinpoche invited me to stay, as what used to be called ‘a house person’ – someone who looked after the house and the gardens and such like. We had a small herd of dairy cows, and so the first job I had after taking a degree in literature was milking cows, and making cheese and butter. Then I started doing building and maintenance jobs around the place.

When I was told by Akong Rinpoche about his project to build a temple, and that the plan was to build all of it ourselves, I had a kind of ‘road to Damascus’ moment. Ever since I was a child I had wanted to do woodwork, but because I showed academic ability at school I ended up on a conventional path of going to university. The moment I heard about the temple, it immediately seemed that the right thing to do was to offer to go away and learn woodwork in order to help with the project. Other friends went off to learn other skills, such as bricklaying, and after about a year we returned and started work. The first foundations were laid in 1978, and the temple was opened in 1988. Other parts of the complex – some of the café buildings and the retreat centre – were also built during this period, but the main focus was on the temple.


The Temple at Samye Ling. Photograph by Rachael Roberts

Accomplishing such a large task gave Rinpoche a degree of credibility. After that, people began to take him and his organisation more seriously. This did not seem to matter to him personally, but it was helpful in that it enabled him to fulfil his aspirations for Samye Ling. He often said that there were basically three main aspects to his work in the last period of his life. The first was the religious activities – the transmission of teachings at Samye Ling which I have already mentioned; the second was his humanitarian work through the Rokpa Foundation; and the third was the Tara Rokpa Therapy, which he developed as a way of helping people bring balance to their personal lives. This aspect of his activity was definitely linked to his role as a doctor and healer.

The charity Rokpa came about because of his association with Lea Wyler, a Swiss woman who is still President of the Board; she and her father initially sponsored projects and then helped Rinpoche to set up the organisation. Rokpa is mainly concerned with humanitarian aid to people in places which are difficult for other aid agencies to reach. Rokpa means ‘help’, and their motto is “helping where help is needed”. One of its main functions is to set up food kitchens, which Akong established in Tibet, Nepal, India and South Africa – as well as in the UK and Europe. One thing that he was very clear about was that he did not want the help to be conditional upon people converting to Buddhism: his concern was to address the common human needs that we all share. Another notable feature of his work was that it was never political: he never tried to fix the bigger problem, but would concentrate on people’s immediate needs, such as satisfying their hunger or providing them with health care and education. He never complained about the political arena in which he was operating, but concentrated on what he could do. This would often be rather puzzling and confusing for people, but the result was that his capacity to achieve what at first seemed impossible would continue to increase.

Tara Rokpa Therapy is a way of bringing the essence of the Buddhist dharma into another form, to the psychological realms – not as an intervention, but very slowly and very gently. One could say that it is perhaps even a way of bringing people to an acceptance of themselves so that they can start to engage with the Buddhist teachings. The attitude is not at all that there is something ‘wrong’ with people, and it is almost unfortunate that it is described as ‘therapy’. Most of us have need of this to some degree: I myself am involved in mindfulness teaching, and this also seems to me to be a way of getting to know ourselves a little better, learning to be compassionate towards ourselves, rather than taking on a spiritual path with the expectation that it will be a kind of magic formula to cure all our problems. As an American psychologist, Jack Engler, says: “You have to become somebody before you can become nobody”, and I think there is some truth in this. It is as if there is a twin track of self-transcendence and self-actualisation which need to work together. Without the process of self-actualisation, there is a tendency to skip round problems to the other side, and it is not enough. As Rinpoche said so many times: “We have to learn to face the situation”.


Akong Rinpoche with children from the ROKPA Children’s Home in Nepal, taken during a visit to Kagyu Samye Dzong, London. Photograph by Gerry McCulloch, Darshanaphotoart.co.uk

There is a synergy between the three areas of Akong Rinpoche’s religious, humanitarian and therapeutic activity. I regard each of them as acts of generosity. In Buddhism generosity is seen as having three aspects: giving dharma; giving food and shelter and the means of life – which is certainly what the Rokpa Foundation does; and giving freedom from fear. And it seems to me that the Tara Rokpa Therapy helps people to be less afraid in their own lives. In the end, the aim is always to bring people to a state in which they can recognise their own true nature. Rinpoche used to say: “You can’t teach people to meditate if they are hungry”, and perhaps hunger takes many different forms.

One of the sayings of Akong Rinpoche that has become famous is: “Only the impossible is worth doing”. He certainly demonstrated this in what he achieved during his life. Reflecting on the implications of it, I feel it is pointing to the heart of Buddhism – the illusory nature of a separate self. Rinpoche once summed up the matter up like this: “First of all there is me; then there is mine; then there is trouble.” So when he was pushing people – gently, but still asking them to go beyond their limitations – I believe that he was challenging the ‘me’ that says: “I can’t do that”. If you don’t go beyond your comfort zone, you are creating a safe place – a fortress – within which to exist. Another thing that he used to emphasise is that mind is endless – life is endless. You simply cannot think too much about the finishing line when you take on a really big project like the building of a temple. In fact, it is a very important understanding in Buddhism that we all have infinite potential. When taking on a large project you have to work with other people; we need to co-operate and admit that we need help, and we grow when we face difficulties and challenges.

Hope for the future

Akong Rinpoche at the Samye Ling Temple, June 2011. Photograph by Louise Adams.

So, what now lies ahead for Samye Ling and the heritage that Akong left behind? In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the concept of the Tulku is enormously important: it is essentially the reassurance that there is continuity in the care given to people, as the Tibetan masters do not come back to the world for any reason other than to help others; they don’t come back for their personal agenda. For many centuries – millennia even – Tibet was a very stable society, and a young Tulku could be carefully educated there; there was always an older regent who was waiting for him to come of age and carry on the tradition. In the West, we are only just in the first generation of this process happening, and it is quite a challenge. I feel that Rinpoche set it up as well as he could do. His brother, Lama Yeshe, has been the abbot of Samye Ling for some years; so, although it was not easy by any means after Akong Rinpoche’s death, in terms of looking after Samye Ling, there was someone in charge. Lama Yeshe provided remarkable leadership by his example during this difficult period.

Now the 17th Karmapa has been asked to find the Tulku, the next reincarnation of Akong. His advice to us is that we should not worry about this but just carry on with compassionate activity as best we can. So we have tried to continue with the various projects that were already set up – and started some new ones as well.


Akong Rinpoche at the Rokpa Soup Kitchen in Kathmandu. Photograph courtesy of Rokpa International.

Akong – a Remarkable Life

Over the last few years, it has been a privilege for me to help make this film about Akong Rinpoche’s life. It came about because my good friend Chico Dall’Inha, a Brazilian film director living in London, had the idea to make a film about Samye Ling. Then his plans evolved into a film about Akong Rinpoche’s life and, after some initial reluctance, Rinpoche gave Chico permission to go ahead. Fortunately filming was already in progress before he died, but in the shocking aftermath, it ground to a halt; apart from anything else, the funding had run out.

Then one morning I woke up just knowing how it could proceed. The vision that came to me was that people should see this film at special events: they should gather together and be inspired to carry on, as Karmapa said, with Rinpoche’s compassionate activity. It seems that when the idea is right, money is never a problem. So the thought came of asking Rinpoche’s many loyal friends to support us, which they did in so many different ways. So now the film is completed and thanks to everyone’s generosity, it has no debt. Any funds that are raised through its screening are donated to support the continuation of Rinpoche’s humanitarian work, and to support the education of the Tulku when he is found.

We specifically decided to organise the distribution of the film ourselves because this also feels consistent with Rinpoche’s direct and creative way of getting things done. Through engaging our network of connections, we already have more than sixty screening opportunities in more than fifteen countries. At every showing of the film, at least one person comes forward with an offer to set up another screening, and so the momentum builds as everyone is able to find inspiration and contribute to Akong Rinpoche’s legacy of compassion in action.


Vin Harris

Photograph by Rachael Roberts.

Currently he is a Director of a successful joinery business specialising in traditional sash windows, as well as a founding board member and tutor of the Mindfulness Association, and an honorary teaching fellow on the University of Aberdeen M.Sc. in Mindfulness Studies. Vin takes on a wide range of inspiring projects, including helping to bring the film ‘Akong – a Remarkable Life’ to completion. One of his few regrets regarding this rich and varied life is that he does not get to play as much golf as he would like.


Image Sources:

Banner image: Akong Rinpoche at the inauguration of the shrine room at Samye Ling. Photograph by Chico Dall’inha.

Thumbnail image: Akong Rinpoche. Photograph by Gerry McCulloch. Darshanaphotoart.co.uk

Reference Sources:

Rinpoche, Akong Tulku, and Clive Holmes, Taming the Tiger:Tibetan Teachings for Improving Daily Life, (Rider, 1994).

Rinpoche, Akong Tulku, Restoring the Balance; Sharing Tibetan Wisdom, (Dzalendara Publishing, 2005).

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, (Shambhala, revised edition 2010).

Chogyam Trungpa and Francesca Fremantle, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo(Shambhala, new edition, 2000).

Vickie Mackenzie, The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun, by (Shambhala, 2017).

More information about the film Akong– A Remarkable Life can be found at http://www.akong-remarkablelife.com

For details of future screenings see http://www.facebook.com/AKONGaremarkablelife/

To organise a screening event, please email trust@hartknowe.org

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Beshara Trust.

[Special thanks to Vin Harris, Chico Dall’ignha and Jane Clark for their help in publishing this article in Many Roads for Bodhicharya.  Apologies for any unsourced photographs appearing in the article. Albert Harris, Editor]


PEAS AND PANIR CURRY केराउको र पनिरको करी


2 cups Panir (tofu) cubes
2 cups peas
4 tomatoes (medium) chopped
2 onions finely chopped
2.5 cm ginger piece
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 cardamoms (black) ailaichi
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons oil/ghui
2 cups of water
Coriander leaves chopped


Fry panir cubes till golden. Remove and drain out. Grind ginger, garlic, turmeric and cumin seeds and make a paste. Heat oil, and add cardamom and bay leaves. Fry onion till golden. Add the paste and salt and again fry. Add peas and tomatoes. Again fry for a few minutes. Add water. Cover and cook till peas become tender. Add fried panir cubes and again cover for 2 minutes. Add mixed spices and garnish with green coriander leaves. Serve hot with bread or rice.

bon appetit

Source:  Joys of Nepalese Cooking , Indra Mahapuria

MINT CHUTNEY – पुदिना को अचार

Mint leaves are not used for making chutney in Kathmandu Valley where they grow wild, but they are generally used in the Terai region of Nepal.

1 cup of green mint leaves
2 small garlic cloves
1/4 teaspoonful of chili powder or 1/2 green chili
1 teaspoonful of salt
2 tablespoons of mustard oil
1/2 teaspoonful of fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoonful of turmeric
Juice of one or two lemons

Grind mint leaves and garlic in a mortar.  Add salt and chilis.  Squeeze one or two lemons for juice.   Heat the mustard oil in a small frying pan and fry the fenugreek seed till they become black.  Add the turmeric and turn with a spoon.  Now add the mint and garlic mixture.

Time required 10- 15 minutes