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A new dawn of Tulkus

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Positive Change:

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER: Ashoka Mukpo (right) was born to an American Jewish father and an aristocratic British mother but was raised as the son of Chogyam Trungpa, the legendary Tibetan lama who preached enlightenment and practiced free love and alcoholic excess. Left: Trungpa with Ashoka's half-brother, Gesar, in the 1970s.

Ashoka Mukpo, 31: Buddhism's White Shadow

When your father is a New York Jew, your mother is an English aristocrat, and your name is Ashoka Mukpo, you spend a lot of time answering questions about your identity. "It's like within 20 seconds of meeting somebody, I've gotta put my whole life on the table," Ashoka, 31, says. "I usually just say, 'Oh, my parents were hippies.' If it's a more formal situation, I'll say, 'Oh, my stepfather was Tibetan.'" And if he's talking to someone who knows something about the story of Tibetan Buddhism coming to the West, he'll share the truth. "Then I say, 'My dad is Chögyam Trungpa,' and God only knows what kind of absurd conversation is going to follow."

Ashoka's mother, Diana, married Trungpa at 16, taking his Tibetan family name, Mukpo. She stood by him throughout the seventies as he built a hippied-out empire centered in Boulder, Colorado, and achieved wider cultural renown as a guru to Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell. Unlike the Dalai Lama, who sticks to the Buddhist basics—minimizing suffering in life—Trungpa initiated his students into the Tantric side of the tradition: the effort to liberate the energies of everyday life to speed up the path to enlightenment. His community, eventually called Shambhala, was notorious for its booze-and-sex-fueled blowouts that were rationalized as Tantric exercises—transmuting the poison of alcohol or liberating oneself from the attachment of conventional romantic love. "I don't know, man," Ashoka says. "I think if it were this day and age and I rolled up and saw a bunch of white people and all the crazy shit that was going on, I might head for the hills."

By 1980 Trungpa had grown increasingly erratic, and Diana, while remaining devoted, took a lover, Mitchell Levy, Trungpa's personal physician. Trungpa's own sexual infidelity was never at issue—he had been shamelessly promiscuous since puberty. When Ashoka was born in 1981, all eyes in the delivery room were trained on his lily-white skin. Trungpa, true to his credo of "crazy wisdom," was unperturbed. "I was his son," Ashoka says. "It didn't matter that I wasn't his seed—I was his son."

Ashoka was recognized as a tulku at 8 months old. The previous Karmapa called Trungpa to announce he'd had a dream that Ashoka was the ninth reincarnation of Khamnyon Rinpoche. "They called him 'the Mad Yogi of Kham,'" Ashoka says of his spiritual forebear. "He had a bit of a reputation as a wild man, which I don't think I'm living up to."

Ashoka, who lives in London with his girlfriend, is in New York City for a United Nations conference. Wearing a gray pinstripe suit instead of his usual jeans and T-shirt, he bears a passing resemblance to a young Jeremy Piven. He's smart and tightly wound, guided by a righteous idealism that led him to work for the nonprofit Human Rights Watch for three years after college and most recently to the London School of Economics, where he earned his master's in international development. In the fall he's off to join a nonprofit working on land rights in Liberia. "It's actually mellower than people think," he says.

After Trungpa's death in 1987 at the age of 48, from the alcoholism that accompanied his relentlessly swinging lifestyle, Levy and Diana married and moved Ashoka to Providence, where family life settled into a closer approximation of the American norm. But Ashoka always knew he'd been marked for a special destiny as a spiritual leader, which was exciting, like having a secret superpower, but which also made him feel like a freak. He recalls the time his parents suggested he take two Tibetan monks who were visiting from a monastery in India to basketball practice. "I told them, 'You guys don't get how incompatible this is with my self-conception right now,'" Ashoka says. "When you're 15, you can't say, 'Dude, I'm a reincarnated spiritual master from the hills of Tibet, and my father was this womanizing, drinking, Tibetan-crazy-wisdom genius' without people thinking you're weird as fuck. Now it's just a pain in the ass."

Ashoka's identity confusion took on a poignant edge during a family trip to Tibet when he was 22. "My title and role is really meaningful to people," he says. "I had old ladies and kids coming up to me and crying. Peasants with nothing offering their life savings. For God's sake, someone put a sick baby in front of my face and asked me to blow on it. I did. I'm not going to be the guy who says, 'This whole thing doesn't make sense for me, sorry!' Sometimes I do feel like it wasn't my decision to take this title on, but now I feel like someone put me in the position of abandoning it."

Ashoka is on his way to a celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of Trungpa's death at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood—one of some 165 centers that, along with dozens of still briskly selling books, maintain Trungpa's legacy. We arrive late to the burgundy-and-saffron-draped hall crowded with New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties. After an hour or so of sitting on the floor cushions, meditating and chanting, volunteers pass around plates of potluck dinner and cups of sake, Trungpa's favored drink.

Ashoka does his part, eating and drinking merrily. But venturing beyond these rituals to live and teach as a tulku lama won't happen in this lifetime. "For me, going too far down the rabbit hole of Tibetan culture doesn't make any sense," he says. Not that he's discerned any pressure from the Tibetan Buddhist establishment. "It's easy for them to write me off. I'm the white guy."

Here's a nice update on Osel and also how did he form his bond with Gomo Tulku. Apparently, they used to be alma mater in Sera Je! It is interesting tho, on the reason why Osel said he did not want to go the path of a Lama, that he did not want to live in the face of what people project him as. Hmm...maybe the FPMT people are putting too much pressure on him? or maybe they are going against one of the main practices he did in his previous life?

Under the afternoon Tuscan sun in Pomaia, Gomo is sitting by the Istituto's giant brass prayer wheel with Osel Hita. Best friends from their years at the Sere Je monastery, the two are catching up on old times. Osel, a 27-year-old Spaniard, was a child lama prodigy and the subject of a biography by the time he was 3. He created a scandal a decade ago when he disappeared from the monastery without warning and made his way back to Europe to find himself. "I didn't feel I deserved so much respect, so many projections," he says. A scruffy freelance philosopher and secular seeker who has attended Burning Man, Osel lives with his girlfriend on the hard-partying Spanish island of Ibiza, where he is an aspiring filmmaker. Free of his monastic vows, he's since reconciled with the Buddhist tradition and now involves himself in the affairs of the Istituto's international parent organization.

Both he and Gomo are tulkus who had to leave the Tibetan Buddhist system to make their peace with it. The same could almost be said of Kalu, who has taken on the unhappy job of bringing Tibetan monasteries out of the Middle Ages. Listening to Gomo and Osel talk, one could easily think of the two lapsed lamas as apostates. But they could be seen as harbingers of a new, accessible, youth-friendly brand of Buddhism that owes as much to Western social mores as to traditional Tibetan forms.

As the conversation turns to Gomo's burgeoning hip-hop career, I mention that one of the tracks on his EP, "Don't You Know," sends a pretty clear Buddhist message: "I let life play its course now/ I'm just the caddy." Sounding very much like the Buddhist teacher he swears he'll never become—at least not formally—Gomo replies, "That's the thing. I am dharma. Don't know if you're aware of it, but you can be too. It's about the quality of who you are: being logical, compassionate, cool, chill. Anyone can do it—not just Buddhists."

--- End quote ---

Positive Change:

Khyentse Yeshe (Yeshi Silvano Namkhai)
Khyentse Yeshe, son of the great Dzogchen master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, was born in Rome in 1970, recieved a Western and Buddhist education, studied philosophy and engineering, worked in the area of modern technologies.

H.H. Sakya Trizin has recognized Khyentse Yeshe as the reincarnation of maternal uncle of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (Khyentse Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchug) and gave him name Jamyang Chökyi Nyima. In 2007 Yeshi visited Central Tibet and made a commitment to support the monastery there.

Recently he is dedicating more and more time for the future of the Dzogchen Community founded by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, following his Teacher and fullfiling the wishes of his students.

Khyentse Yeshe's style is simple and open, he is arising a lively and natural interest, speaking directly, helping to enter the essence of the buddhist teachings and discover the true nature of everyone.

During the last three years, Khyentse Yeshe gave more than 40 lectures and teachings in Europe, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Mexico, USA, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Australia. Yeshi Silvano Namkhai actively collaborates with many universities, museums and institutes involved in tibetan culture and buddhist knowledge.

Information on education and professional experience you can get from his CV. To learn more about his activities related to the Teaching please visit Archive and Video Library.

A life beyond oneself
For twenty years, filmmaker Jennifer Fox has been following the high Tibetan master, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and his Italian born son, Yeshi, with her camera. The result is the astounding feature length documentary, MY REINCARNATION, which tells the rare inside story of one of the last reincarnate teachers to be trained in Tibet and his son's stubborn reluctance to follow in his father's footsteps.

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche escaped Tibet in 1959 and settled in Italy, where he married and had two children, of which Yeshi was the first. As a boy, Yeshi was recognized as the reincarnation of a famous spiritual master, who died after the Chinese invaded Tibet. But Yeshi grew up in Italy and never wanted to have anything to do with this legacy

http://youtu.be/9VOW_b0sCKk Small | Large

Biography on Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche: http://tsegyalgar.org/Data/theteachers/namkhainorbu/biography/religions-03-00163.pdf


Here's a nice bio of Lama Osel, for those of us who would like to know more.

--- Quote ---Tenzin Osel Rinpoche
From The Dhamma Encyclopedia

Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche (Tibetan: ??????????????????; Wylie: bstan 'dzin 'od gsal) was born in 1985 in Bubion, Granada, to Spanish parents who had been students of Lama Thubten Yeshe. Fourteen months later the Dalai Lama concurred with suggestions to the effect that he was the tulku (i.e. Tibetan Buddhist reincarnation) of Lama Yeshe.

Tenzin Osel was born without causing any pain to his mother; a birth event considered significant in Buddhism. The Buddha was born in such a way and often Tibetan lamas look for people born in such a way, determining them to be tulkus, or rebirths of famous teachers and gurus from the past.
This birth event also occurred with Dr. David N. Snyder (who has made no claims to being any famous guru, reborn).
Born Osel Hita Torres, "Lama Ösel" is the son of Maria Torres and Francisco Hita; and the fifth of six siblings: Yeshe, Harmonia, Lobstang, and Dolma (all older); and (younger brother) KunKyen. As a teenager Lama Ösel studied both Western and traditional Tibetan subjects at Sera Monastery in South India. However, in order to attain a western education, he studied at St. Michaels University School, a private high school in Victoria, British Columbia to complete a grade-12 education. It was reported he has taken monastic vows.
Vicki Mackenzie wrote a book about Lama Yeshe and Lama Osel entitled Reincarnation: The Boy Lama. Additional information about Lama Osel and other western tulkus can be found in her Reborn in the West.

Although once chosen by the Dalai Lama himself, Osel Torres has now left the Order and is pursuing a film education back in Spain. On May 31, 2009 some magazines came out with reports that Osel no longer wished to be ordained: see the Guardian article link for the full report.
In June 2009 FPMT (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) came out with a response, see the 'gobeyondwords' link below stating that the lama still respects the Buddhist traditions and especially the Dalai Lama. The response from the FPMT claims that the other reports were sensationalized in a tabloid manner and distorted the facts.
After attaining his majority, Hita seemed increasingly to avoid FPMT circles, though formulaic greetings regularly appeared in FPMT publications. In May of 2009, Hita gave an interview for Babylon Magazine, a bilingual (Spanish/English) Madrid periodical. In it he expressed belief in reincarnation, and admiration for Zopa and the Dalai Lama, while complaining of his own discomfort with his exile Tibetan environs:
"I returned to Spain because I had arrived at a point where I no longer fitted within that life. I couldn't find myself, because for me it was a lie being there living something that was imposed from outside."
Having left the monastery at eighteen, without having earned a geshe degree, he felt unqualified to teach, as the FPMT expected of him: "The literal translation of lama is teacher, and I'm no teacher."[1]
Similar, but more pointed, remarks soon appeared in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo:
"Con 14 meses ya me habían reconocido y llevado a la India. Me vistieron con un gorro amarillo, me sentaron en un trono, la gente me veneraba... Me sacaron de mi familia y me metieron en una situación medieval en la que he sufrido muchísimo. Era como vivir en una mentira." [2]
"At 14 months I was recognized and taken to India. I dressed in a yellow hat, I sat on a throne, people worshipped me ... I was taken away from my family and put in a medieval situation in which I suffered a lot. It was like living a lie."
Extracts appeared the following day in the The Guardian (UK). At this time, references to "Lama Osel" suddenly disappeared from the FPMT's website, but reappeared the following day. [3] [4] Wisdom Publications (the FPMT publisher) then reported on the controversy on its blog under the title "Tempest in a Teapot." [5], claiming that Hita's original comments had been misrepresented and taken out of context. According to Wisdom, the article from El Mundo had been based on the one for Babylon Magazine.
On June 3, a message from Hita appeared on the FPMT website expressing support for that organization and Lama Zopa. In it, he said he was "privileged" to have received an education rooted in both Eastern and Western cultures.
"That experience was really good and I so appreciate it.
"However, certain media find ways to sensationalize and exaggerate an unusual story. So I hope that what appears in news print is not read and taken too literally. Don't believe everything that is written!
"Experience shows that however hard one tries in interviews to sincerely and honestly convey key information, the printed result can tend towards sensationalism to get the most attention.
"FPMT is doing a great job and Lama Zopa is an immensely special person - very inspiring and a great yogi. ... There is no separation between myself and FPMT..." [6]

--- End quote ---

Yes Buddhism like other faiths have to evolve to reach out to people, that is the compassion of the lamas and gurus to adapt to a fast changing environment like nowadays. If methods do not change how will the many beings get the dharma and be benefited? Certain methods that worked 2600 years ago will most likely not work now. May these young tulkus have the courage to help and save many sentient beings!   


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