Buddhist leader’s ‘message of hope’ premiered at Scots monastery

The Samyeling Tibetan temple, Europes first and biggest Buddhist monastery, in Eskdalemuir, and inset, Akong Tulku Rinpoche the subject of the film who was murdered in China four years ago. Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

The Samyeling Tibetan temple, Europes first and biggest Buddhist monastery, in Eskdalemuir, and inset, Akong Tulku Rinpoche the subject of the film who was murdered in China four years ago. Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

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A film charting the life and times of the co-founder of Europe’s first Buddhist monastery yesterday received its world premiere.

The feature-length documentary about Akong Tulku Rinpoche was screened at Kagyu Samye Ling, the Tibetan centre in south-west Scotland he helped established some 60 years ago.

The film, ‘Akong – A Remarkable Life’ charts the former Buddhist leader’s early years in Tibet through to his murder in China in 2013.

Described by its makers as a “message of hope,” the documentary was authorised by Akong Rinpoche before he was stabbed to death.

Akong, who was born in 1939, was identified as the reincarnation of Dolma Lhakang, at a monastery in eastern Tibet. He was just four when he was enthroned in the monastery and began his spiritual education.

After the Tibetan uprising against occupying Chinese forces in 1959, the then 19-year-old joined a freedom walk over the Himalayas to India. The gruelling trek saw the party run out of food, with many forced to boil leather shoes and bags to make soup. Out of about 200 people who took part in the walk, Akong was among just 15 survivors.

He eventually made his way to Scotland, where along with Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, he founded Samye Ling in Langholm, 30 miles east of Dumfries. Students at the monastery, constructed around a former hunting lodge, have included the late musicians David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.

Vin Harris, executive producer of the film, which features contributions from the likes of Lord Steele, said: “We feel that the film is more a message of hope, a celebration of his life.

“It kind of focuses on the fact that putting compassion into action, rather than being a kind of luxury, is so effective.

“We look at what, as a refugee, he achieved – setting up centres all over the world and helping thousands and thousands of people without compromising that value of compassion.”

Last year, two men were sentenced to death in China for the murder of Akong as well as his nephew and driver. A third man was sentenced to three years in jail.

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