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Tibetan Lama, Author, Educator Visits Rose-Hulman
April 11, 2011
Buddhist Educator Talks of History
and Kindness at Rose-Hulman
|Tibetan Lama Arjia Rinpoche, pictured with his 2010
book Surviving the Dragon, spoke of his 8-year-old experiences with
the Chinese invasion of Tibet. His talk was punctuated by much
laughter and humor about the inconsistencies of human
Earthquakes in Japan
and conflicts throughout the Middle East are modern-day examples
that life is impermanent. That's the message Arjia
Rinpoche, one of the most prominent Buddhist
teachers and the only Tibetan high lama of Mongolian descent,
spread across the Wabash Valley during presentations Thursday
evening at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Indiana State
"The world is always evolving. We live in an ever-changing
place, with little reason or explanation about what's happening,"
stated Rinpoche before his Rose-Hulman presentation.
"Religion and spirituality can help provide relief from the
suffering. However, we need to always extend helping hands
and comfort one another in times of need."
Earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes are natural disasters that
seem to have no explanation. However, war and conflicts over
government control are man-made occurrences that inflict more harm
on society, according to the director of the Bloomington,
Ind.-based Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC).
"Sometimes, people can do great things and sometimes people can
bad things to one another. These are times of great concern
throughout the world," he said.
Rinpoche's 2010 memoir, "Surviving the Dragon," offers an intimate
first-person account of one man's struggle for freedom, while also
telling the larger story of the Chinese cultural revolution and
Tibet's ongoing fight for independence. He escaped from Tibet
in 1998. This decision to go into exile echoes the flight of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet to India in 1959, when
Tibetans rose in protest against the Communist invaders.
Rinpoche grew up as the reincarnated abbot in Kumbum, one of
Tibet's major monasteries. He trained with lineage teachers,
such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama and His Holiness the Panchen
Lama, from whom he received many sacred teachings and ritual
instructions. Unlike many stories from Tibet, his memories
are not those of torture and suffering under the Chinese but of
suffering and fame.
As a child, he was treated like a living Buddha and as a young man
he emptied latrines. After the death of Chinese leader Mao
Tse Tung, Rinpoche rose to prominence within the Chinese Buddhist
bureaucracy, becoming vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of
China and was slated to become its chairman.
At the time of his escape to America in 1998, Rinpoche's life
was one of ease, which would have continued if he had agreed to
become tutor to the boy whom the Communist Chinese had
unconscionably named the 11th Panchen Lama. It was a
political move against the Dalai Lama and his Buddhist faith.
Rinpoche's conscience would not allow him to be disloyal to
the values of his mentor the 10th Panchen Lama or His
Holiness the Dalai Lama. As a result, he fled Tibet rather
than betray his Buddhist religion and his Tibetan and Mongolian
In America, Rinpoche started the Tibetan Center for Compassion
and Wisdom (TCCW) in Mill Valley, Calif. In 2005, he was
appointed the TMBCC's director by Dalai Lama. Presently, he
directs both centers, which are dedicated to the preservation of
Buddhist teachings, art and culture within and outside of Tibet and
The Dalai Lama has since set up a Tibetan Government‐in‐Exile in
Dharamsala, India. More than 80,000 Tibetan fled Tibet at the
time that His Holiness left. Presently, there are more than
120,000 displaced Tibetans living throughout the world.
"We watch with great interest the on-going struggles for freedom
throughout China, and hope for the day when we can return to our
homeland (Tibet) with pride," Rinpoche said.
Thursday's presentation at Rose-Hulman was organized by the
Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and supported by the
Elsie Pawley Fund. The session was attended by students,
faculty and staff members.
"It was a great opportunity to learn from one of the world's
spiritual leaders," stated Steve Letsinger, Rose-Hulman's
coordinator of arts programming.