Eskdalemuir Buddhist centre monk killed in China

File photo of Dr Rinpoche, co-founder of the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Dumfriesshire. Picture: Contributed
File photo of Dr Rinpoche, co-founder of the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre in Dumfriesshire. Picture: Contributed
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A TIBETAN monk who founded the first Buddhist monastery in the UK, situated in the Scottish borders, has been killed in south west China.

Dr Choje Akong Rinpoche was “killed” along with two other people in Chengdu, according to a statement by his brother on the Samye Ling Monastery website.

The monastery was set up in Eskdalemuir, Dumfries and Galloway, in 1967 and about 60 people, including monks and volunteers, are believed to live there.

A statement from police in the Chinese city of Chengdu said Choje Akong Rinpoche, his nephew and his driver were killed in a residential area.

It said three suspects - all of whom were Tibetan - had stabbed the men to death in a dispute about money.

The Chinese police said: “The three suspects have confessed to the crime and the case is still under investigation.”

A statement on the official website of Tibetan Buddhist leader the Karmapa Lama said he was “shocked” by the news and offered his condolences to his family members and everyone at the monastery.

“I hope that all of his visions and aspirations may continue to be fulfilled,” he said.

A statement posted by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, the Abbot of the monastery, said: “To all dear friends of Samye Ling and Choje Akong Rinpoche, I am very, very sorry to inform you all that tragically, my brother Choje Akong Rinpoche, my nephew and one monk who was travelling with then, were all killed in Chengdu today.

“Rinpoche’s body has been taken to hospital where a post mortem will be carried out. That is all the news I have so far. If I receive further news I will let you know.”

The Dalai Lama has been told of the death and is offering prayers, the statement said.

“We will have to do a lot of special prayers and make a lot of appropriate offerings on Rinpoche’s behalf and any contributions you wish to make in his name will be much appreciated. I request you all to do whatever prayers you can.”

Dr Rinpoche attended the 60th anniversary of the signing of the UN Refugee Convention with Home Secretary Theresa May in London in 2011.

He said he was welcomed by the British Government and its people when he came as a refugee in 1963 and he presented Mrs May with a long white scarf endorsed with messages of friendship.

Born in Dharak Village, in Riwoche county in Tibet in 1940, Dr Rinpoche was discovered at the age of two by a search party seeking the reincarnation of the previous, first, Aking Karma Miyo, Abbot of Dolma Lhakang monastery

At four he was taken to Dolma Lhakang to receive an education which included religion and traditional Tibetan medicine.

In the aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion he fled to India where he spent time in refuge camps.

In 1963 a sponsor paid for him to go to Oxford to learn English where he worked as a hospital orderly in Radcliffe Infirmary to supplement his bursary.

In 1967 Dr Rinpoche co-founded Samye Ling. He also helped set up ROKPA International, an international humanitarian organisation operating mainly in Tibet and Nepal whose aims are to promote Buddhism and provide medical care and therapy.

Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh, paid tribute to the work undertaken by Rinpoche.

“It’s heartbreaking news. He and his colleagues brought a new dimension to Scottish spirituality.”

A spokesman for the Free Tibet campaign said his organisation did not want to comment on Dr Rinpoche’s death until the full facts were made public.