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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Tibetan monk shares life story

April 3, 2009

By  Mickey Woods
Indiana Daily Student
April 2, 2009

Arjia Rinpoche tells the story of his life
Wednesday in Swain Hall East. At two years old,
Rinpoche was recognized as the reincarnation of
Lama Tsong Khapa's father, thus taking his place
as Abbot of the Kumbum Monastery.

Arjia Rinpoche escaped from what he called a
"political asylum" in Tibet in 1998. Since 2006,
he has been in Bloomington promoting Buddhist
teachings, educating the community about Tibetan
and Mongolian cultural events, and telling his
life story to those who will listen.

On Wednesday, Rinpoche shared his story with
students in Swain Hall East. He said his life is
the inspiration for an upcoming memoir.

Rinpoche was recognized as the incarnation of the
father of Lama Tsong Khapa, the great
thirteenth-century Buddhist reformer, and as such
became the Abbot of Kumbum Monastery in eastern Tibet.

He said his eventual move to Bloomington began in
1958 at age seven when the Chinese Communist
government had a political campaign called "The Great Leap Forward."

"My teachers, my tutors and people who taught me
all I know about Buddhism were arrested,"
Rinpoche said. "Monks were de-robed and became social workers and coal miners."

He said the Dalai Lama, whom he met for the first
time in 1954, escaped from Tibet in the 1960s
when issues with the government weren’t getting
better. He said he worked under the Panchen Lama,
who was denounced by the Chinese government for being "contra-revolutionary."

Rinpoche said he worked with the Kumbum Monastery
in eastern Tibet and promoted spiritual leadership until 1998.

He then fled to a Chinese airport and flew to New
York where he met the Dalai Lama once again. The
Dalai Lama encouraged him to spread Buddhist
teachings in America. Later, Rinpoche renovated
the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington.

Rinpoche concluded his presentation with photos
he had taken and said he edited in Photoshop. He
created captions for each one that he said gave voice to his ultimate missions.

One reads "Wishing for Democracy in China," while
another reads "Wishing for compassion and
compromise. Not confrontation and conflict."

During a question-and-answer session after his
presentation, Rinpoche was asked if he would go
back to China if something happened there.

"My hope is after 10 years, I can go back," he
responded. "If something happens, like a war, my
monastery, my monks are all still there."

Students who attended Rinpoche’s presentation
said they believed he had a lot to offer Bloomington.

"It is cool to learn of someone who was raised
like that on a special path, has evolved as a
spiritual leader," junior Ben Fearnow said.

For sophomore Jamie Hammond, Rinpoche’s visit was
more of a cultural experience.

"Seeing something like this gives a chance to
become more worldly and to learn about an
experience different from what you normally experience," she said.
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