Author Topic: Story of a Western Tulku  (Read 17409 times)

Big Uncle

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1995
Story of a Western Tulku
« on: June 16, 2012, 03:00:40 PM »
What do you guys think of Western Tulkus?


Old soul: ( http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/02.21/28-elijah.html )

Ary sees himself as a bridge between East and West

By Ken Gewertz
Gazette Staff


'I'd been thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to get a Western education. I felt that by staying in the monastery, I couldn't be as beneficial in other people's lives as I wanted to be.' (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)
When Elijah Ary was 4, he began telling his parents about a place he visited in dreams that he called "my planet."
They listened to these stories with amusement at first, attributing them to their son's power of invention. Then something happened that forced them to change their minds.

A Tibetan monk named Geshe Pema Gyaltsen visited their home in Montreal. The Arys had become converts to Buddhism several years before. Later, Elijah told his parents that the monk reminded him of a teacher he had had when he lived on "his planet," and he listed the names of others he had known there.

When Elijah's father told Geshe Gyaltsen what his son had said, the monk's response surprised him. The names Elijah had mentioned were fellow monks whom Gyaltsen had known years ago at his monastery in Tibet.

When Gyaltsen returned to India (where many Tibetan Buddhist monasteries have relocated to escape persecution by the Chinese), he began researching Elijah's stories. Four years later, he wrote to the Arys that he was certain Elijah was the reincarnation of Geshe Jatse, a Tibetan teacher and scholar who died in the mid-1950s.

A letter from the Dalai Lama confirmed Gyaltsen's conclusions and said that this was the first time someone from the Gelugpa school of Buddhism (of which the Dalai Lama is the head) had reincarnated in the West.

Now a graduate student and teaching fellow in the Study of Religion, Ary often tells his life story to his students, supplementing it with a film about him by Marcel Poulin titled "Memories From a Previous Life."

"I've shown the film a number of times at Harvard to different classes," Ary says, "and for a lot of people it's been an eye-opener. It shows them that there may be something about the world they didn't take into account, and that opens their minds and I think makes a difference in their lives for the better."

As the film makes clear, Ary's odyssey has not always been an easy one, either for him or for his family. Despite being practicing Buddhists, Ary's parents were not prepared to send their young son to study in India, as the monks of Sera monastery expected them to. For years they tried to find an alternative, seeking out less remote Buddhist centers where Ary could learn Tibetan and study Buddhist scriptures.

None of these arrangements worked out. Meanwhile, Ary continued to remember specific details of his former life, details so obscure, he says, that there was no way he could have heard or read about them.

Finally, when he was 14, his parents decided to let him go. For Ary, who had been bored in Western schools and troubled by a sense of difference, this immersion in Tibetan Buddhist studies was a revelation. He learned Tibetan in nine months, well enough to engage in high-pressure debates about the fine points of Buddhist philosophy. He also says that he could recite certain Tibetan texts by heart, despite never having seen them before.

"There are a lot of questions that have been answered in my life, and I don't see how they could be answered in any other way. So if reincarnation doesn't exist, it doesn't seem to make sense to me."

Ary remained at the monastery for six years, studying up to 14 hours a day and becoming almost completely absorbed in the world of Tibetan Buddhism.

Almost, but not quite. A part of him remained rooted in the West, and he began to wonder why he had been reincarnated here. He decided that the purpose of his life was to be a bridge between East and West.

"I'd been thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to get a Western education. I felt that by staying in the monastery, I couldn't be as beneficial in other people's lives as I wanted to be."

The Dalai Lama agreed. During a brief meeting, he told Ary: "I think you should go back and study and become a professor. You don't have to be a monk to be a good Buddhist."

Since then, Ary has reclaimed the identity he left behind. A fourth-year graduate student, married to his childhood sweetheart, and whose leisure activities include playing ice hockey and watching action films, Ary looks forward to a career teaching Buddhist and Tibetan studies.

"What I really like about students is that they constantly challenge you and challenge what the tradition has to say."

He also enjoys challenging them in turn, shaking up their preconceptions by presenting them with the story of his own life. But when he puts his personal facts before them, it is not to enhance his own spiritual authority, but rather to demonstrate that behind the seemingly mundane can lurk the miraculous.

"The important thing isn't who I was. It's what I'm doing now. If I can have a positive impact with my life this time around, then it's all the better. That's really what I'm here for."



Midakpa

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 624
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2012, 03:45:27 PM »
This story is proof that reincarnation exists.  Ary is not the only Western tulku. I believe that there must be a purpose why more and more tulkus are being born in the West. They are in fact bridges between the East and the West, having been raised in both cultures and understanding the people, their minds and lifestyles. From the way he interacts with people, Ary seems to understand his purpose in life and the impact he can have on them.

Vajraprotector

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 610
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2012, 06:00:53 PM »
Penor Rinpoche once said, "We cannot say for sure who is going to be a tulku. They return only where they are needed. And they have the freedom to take any form they want."

I think as long as they are benefitting others, it is great, after all, who are we to judge people who choose to take rebirth again and again to benefit others. These are some of the Western Tulkus I know:

Dylan Henderson, a Canadian, was the first Caucasian Tulku discovered in the West, recognised in 1975 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche as the incarnation of one of his teachers. The identification was confirmed by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, who requested that Henderson come to the Rumtek Monastery in India for the rest of his life. Chögyam Trungpa, however, recommended that he remain in the West. Henderson maintains his Buddhist studies and practices, but without the form and structure present in the East. He has a degree in anthropology and history.

Of course we have Lama Osel, recognised first by Lama Zopa and finally by the Dalai Lama as the incarnation of FPMT’s founder, Lama Thubten Yeshe. (More info at the FPMT site: http://www.fpmt.org/fpmt/osel.html)

Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo, who had no contact with Tibetan Buddhism at all initially. She was teaching a meditation group in Washington, D.C., thirty-nine years old and the mother of three children, when she made contact with a Tibetan teacher, Penor Rinpoche, who subsequently recognized her as the incarnation of the "original" Ahkön Norbu Lhamo, a prominent woman teacher of the seventeenth century.  She is the Spiritual Director for Kunzang Odsal Palyul Changchub Choling, a Buddhist center in Poolesville, Maryland, which includes one of the largest communities of Western monks and nuns in North America.

Ashoka Mukpo, son of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, leads a secular life, working in the U.S. division of Human Rights Watch. Although he has not adopted the life of a Buddhist tulku, he has a thangka wall-hanging portrait of his previous incarnation, Khamyon Rinpoche, in his apartment. Ashoka was enthroned as a tulku in Tibet, and found the experience, as well as the expectations of others, very intense and at times uncomfortable. He feels his path is not to be a teacher, wearing monk's robes, but rather to help others and give back in ways appropriate to his location and culture.

Gesar Mukpo, son of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, was identified by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche as the reincarnation of the late Shechen Kongtrul Rinpoche (the Jamgon Kongtrul of Shechen), one of his own father's teachers in Tibet. Three-year-old Gesar was then enthroned as a tulku in Berkeley, California. He lives an ordinary secular life in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has a daughter, is separated from his wife, and is a music video director and producer. He recently wrote and directed Tulku, a documentary film that details the personal experiences of five young Western men who were identified in childhood as being tulkus, or reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist masters.

Shenpen Rinpoche was born in Western France. As a young child, Rinpoche was surprisingly interested in philosophical concepts, for example reincarnation. During an appointment with Gomo Tulku in his teens, Rinpoche was told that he was the rebirth "of a great practitioner in Tibet”, and later to be confirmed by several Lamas and an Oracle of Dharamsala as the Tulku of Lama Gendun Rabgye Of Kharnang & Sera-Je monastery. At 21 years old, Rinpoche took the full monk ordination with His Holiness the Dalaï-Lama in Dharamsala. Between 1998 & 2001, following the request of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Shenphen Rinpoche became the director of a retreat Centre in Greece. Since 2000, Rinpoche teaches in many countries in Europe, Tibet, and India. In May 2008, following the advice of a melong-reader, Shenphen Rinpoche left his ordination and accepted to continue his work as lay Lama.

WisdomBeing

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2096
    • Add me to your facebook!
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2012, 08:10:38 PM »
This is an interesting thread.  Thanks also to Vajraprotector for the brief bios of the various western Rinpoches. I think that it is not surprising that Rinpoches reincarnate in the west. They probably have done so for millions of years but it is only recently that they have been officially recognised.

There has been much criticism of western Rinpoches, such as Lama Osel, who despite being recognised as the incarnation of such a legendary lama, he decided to return his vows and became a film maker/hippy.

Look at Steven Seagal – is he really a Tulku? He doesn’t act like one. But then HH Penor Rinpoche cannot be wrong.

In the docudrama, ‘Tulku’ by Gesar Mukpo, there is obviously a huge resistance to the monastic life by these recognised reincarnations.

I do not doubt that these are the reincarnated masters as confirmed by high lamas. I simply think that the western world is not ready for them yet so they have to adapt their presentations to suit the western world.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Klein

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 502
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2012, 05:38:09 AM »
I think it does makes sense to have Western Tulkus as they can teach Buddhism to the Westerners without the mindset that only exotic and mystical Tibetans can teach Buddhism. Vajraprotector highlighted that there are already many recognised Western Tulkus for the last few decades. However, for Gelugpas this is the first.

It's most skillful for  Elijah Ary to be teaching in Harvard University after having studied in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in India. This is where the country's brightest can have exposure to Tibetan Buddhism and be potentially instrumental in the spreading of the dharma.

This is the link to Marcel Poulin's documentary movie, Memories from a Previous Life, http://www.tenzintulku.com/index.php/en/media-appearances

sonamdhargey

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 406
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2012, 07:57:41 AM »
I find it interesting that Ary said "my planet" later to find out that he is an incarnation of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. High lamas have the abilities to determined their rebirth. However some incarnate Tulku didn't continue with their path or totally refrain from monastic life in their present life. I was wondering with such attainments to choose a rebirth, why these incarnations of High Lamas didn't continue their monastic path as ordained monks to continue the doctrine? Is it because they have to use skillful means to adapt to current era and teach according to the current times?

WisdomBeing

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2096
    • Add me to your facebook!
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2012, 11:32:50 AM »
Re the different planets, I think that there are many different worlds out there. It even says so in the Buddhist scriptures. So someone could manifest in many other places, and not just this earth as we know it.

Regarding the behaviour of certain attained monks, I do think that the attained lamas would know what to do and everything they do is pre-planned with their high level of insight. I would imagine that they would manifest in different ways specifically to accommodate the perceptions of different people. Also, they would manifest according to the karma of the people involved, for example, in cases like Lama Osel.

It is possible that Lama Osel becoming a layperson was due to the broken samaya with his students regarding Dorje Shugden.  Outwardly you see that he has given up his robes and become a layperson. Yet I hear that he is very interested in Dharma, and that when Lama Zopa was sick, he immediately went to see him. If he was so divorced from Dharma, he would not react like that.

So in summary, how the western tulkus act depends on the circumstances and not because they were not attained. It is simply our very limited view which cannot see the big picture behind these lamas.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

dondrup

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 816
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2012, 12:50:04 PM »
It seems like more and more Western tulkus are appearing.  Perhaps these tulkus had chosen to appear as such to benefit the Western practitioners as Buddhism is becoming more common and is flourishing in the West.

Elijah Ary’s previous incarnation could not have been wrong in the motivation and choice of reincarnation.  Elijah Ary sees himself as a bridge between East and West.  Elijah Ary in his present form provides the Western practitioners who prefer a Western teacher than a Tibetan lama an opportunity to create an affinity with Dharma.  In other words, it is a skillful means of these tulkus.

Tammy

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 319
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #8 on: June 17, 2012, 01:55:30 PM »
Elijah's story is not very rare, I have read n heard numerous stories of how people found their 'past life's family, remembering detailed information about their past lives, feeling a sense of deja vu when they go a completely new place, etc etc etc.

I am a firm believer of reincarnation and karma, this is the ONLY explanation to our life journey. People often ask, if there is GOD, why does this man who had done all the wrong things still get away and enjoying himself; whilst some other people who are goody-two-shoes suffer badly? The only explanation to this seemingly unfair situation is (1) reincarnation DOES exist and (2) karma is real.

As for Elijah, it does not matter to me whether he is the reincarnation of a certain lama, more importantly, I agree with what he did and reasons for him to leave the monastery to take up teaching post in the west :

"The important thing isn't who I was. It's what I'm doing now. If I can have a positive impact with my life this time around, then it's all the better. That's really what I'm here for."

If all of us embrace this statement and truly walk our talk, this world will become a better place to be.
Down with the BAN!!!

Big Uncle

  • Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1995
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2012, 03:35:05 PM »
You know I have nothing against Western Tulkus but I just notice an undesirable trend amongst them, they resist ordination and they do very little to spread the Dharma with their status. I think it is alright for them but for many people who look up to them, it is very disheartening.

I guess ultimately, it doesn't matter if a Tulku is ordained or not as long as they work to study the Dharma and spread it with practice, sincerity and general sense of duty. However, many Western Tulkus seem to lack this and are constantly soul-searching, just like any one of us. If the Tulkus are like that, how would any of us gain faith in the Dharma and this is especially crucial in the West where most people still have very airy-fairy ideas of what Buddhism is all about.

I like Tenzin Tulku's story because although he is back in the West as a lay person, he has intentions to spread Dharma with his background of studying in the monastery and combining it with his Western education. This is a far cry of a few Tulkus who don't even have any monastic training. I think in the end of the day, there's many Tulkus who have taken all over the world and some will have to shoulder a bigger burden of carrying on the lineage and who take their responsibilities seriously.

RedLantern

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 758
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2012, 04:01:11 PM »

To date,approximately 15 western children have been sought out and recognized as lama reincarnations, known as Tulkus.The recognition of western children as Tulkus first started in the mid 1970's.This practise has created stability politically and spiritually in Tibetan socety for 800 years.but has not transferred easily into the western culture.For most of these young man there has been conflict between the modern western culture that they have been raised in and the traditional Tibetan culture of their past lives.

thor

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1431
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2012, 05:40:16 PM »
Big uncle - why undesirable? As you say, Ordination is not a necessity for a Tulku, whether western or eastern to do what they are supposed to do. What gives you the right to say that a Tulku who is not ordained, who did not enter formal study of Buddhism, who does not wear robes, who does not seem like a conventional Tulku, is any less capable or less learned than a traditional Eastern Tulku who is ordained in the monastery and enthroned since childhood.

In fact, I would argue that a western Tulku may in fact be more savvy, more street smart, more wise, and more capable of spreading the word of Buddha in the west than the traditional tibetan speaking Tulku, who is just too sheltered. No offense or disrespect meant, but who are you to say that what the Western Tulkus are doing is not suitable??

dsiluvu

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1272
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2012, 06:09:50 PM »
What do you guys think of Western Tulkus?

"The important thing isn't who I was. It's what I'm doing now. If I can have a positive impact with my life this time around, then it's all the better. That's really what I'm here for."

I think wether they are western or not does not really matters at all... what matters is precisely as Ary stated at the end... what is He doing now. If the title Tulku will help him make his Dharma work in benefiting others flourish even more... then why not. It is after all a label to identify who you are so you can continue your great work. But if the Tulku just ends up eating, playing with video games and does not do what he is suppose to have returned to do then what is the point. They become just the same as you and me lay people.

Most important is the motivation to benefit others. How they choose do it is subjective as we've heard of so many great Mahasiddha stories who teaches in very unconventional ways. Who are we to know ands judge.

However, I've also heard that there are also many levels of Tulku... highly attained one and those that are now. Apparently the Tulkus who does not do what they are back to do usually has a shorter life here in samsara or theu may be wind off...just watch Tulku video. This makes sense because what are they here for if not to benefit others?


kurava

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 292
    • Email
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #13 on: June 18, 2012, 04:10:04 AM »
Thank you for sharing this amazing story of Elijah Ary.

Buddhism challenges our ordinary concept of world, universe and time. Even when we accept past and future lives based on logical deduction, it is still quite mind boggling to think that a being can take rebirth across different time dimensions and planets !

Buddhist cosmology is beyond what we can comprehend.

Can you imagine Mount Meru ? Is it something real? What is real ? What is imagined? Why is imagination not real? If everything depends on the mind, then imagination can become real.

In Tantra, students are taught to drop ordinary conceptions; go beyond ordinary appearances - fake it till you make it. It's easy to just parrot the words; to put this into practice one needs to find a qualified Guru and practice strong Guru Devotion.

hope rainbow

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 947
Re: Story of a Western Tulku
« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2012, 03:34:35 PM »
Only very disciplined practitioners can practice surrounded by materialistic temptations: money, food, travels, movies, beauty, shopping centers, comfort, houses, cars, music, clothes, attractive and easy girls and boys, drugs, parties, holidays, fame, entertainment of all sorts, etc...

Just as it has very hard to practice in the pretas' realm.

For practicing in a monastery is easier.
To live in an environment where there are not many other things one can do other  than either work in the fields, join the army or practice spirituality, as was Tibet until recently, seem to be an environment into which it is easier to focus, easier to practice.

Just as it is easier to focus when one is cut off from the world into a retreat.
Try meditating in a shopping center just before X'mas... not impossible, just more difficult.

Being a tulku does not mean being a Buddha. And some tulku might have taken on more than they can chew. Part of the solution, I believe, is to bring about the correct motivation, to re-generate the motivation so that the will-power, the volition allows one to arise from a worldly level of concerns.

We can do so much more for others than we can do for our self.

Easily said of course.