Around the age of four, the child was taken to Dolma Lhakang to receive the spiritual and formal education necessary for him to be able resume his work as Abbot later on. Dolma Lhakang was a monastery with some 100 monks and many associated small retreats and nunneries. Besides his religious studies, the young Akong Tulku also trained in traditional Tibetan medicine.
As a teenager, he travelled from community to community, performing
religious ceremonies and treating the sick. He then went to
the great monastic university of Secchen, where he received
transmission of the quintessential mahamudra Kagyu Buddhist
lineage from Secchen Kongtrul Rinpoche. His spiritual training
as a holder of the Kagyu lineage was further completed under
the guidance of HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa , who also
him as a teacher of Tibetan medicine. Rinpoche also holds
many lineages of the Nyingmapa tradition.
Throughout this period he was treated with much reverence and respect.
1959 takeover of Tibet caused him to flee to India, in an
arduous, nine month journey as one of the leaders of a
party, of which only some 13 persons made it to safety in
India. At one point, they were so hungry that they were
to boil the leather of their bags or boots to make soup. After
spending sme time in refugee camps, he was asked, along with
some other lamas, to look after yhe Young Lamas Home School,
in Dalhousie, NW India. This was a place where young
lamas from all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism could receive an
Through the kind help of Mrs Freda Bedi, later to become Sister Palmo, he and Trungpa Tulku, Abbot of Surmang, sailed to England in 1963, to learn English in Oxford. Only the latter had a bursary and Akong Tulku worked for some years as a simple hospital orderly, supporting himself, Trungpa Rinpoche and Tulku Chime of Benchen Monastery in the small appartment they shared.
In response to a growing demand for specific teachings from the Kagyu traditions, he invited its greatest living scholars and meditation masters to Scotland, where they taught its main meditation practices and philosophical texts. The ground was laid for the proper development of these teachings in the West when the Supreme Head of the Kagyu Lineage, HH the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa visited Samye Ling in 1975 and 1977. Akong Tulku was then asked by the Karmapa to be the organisor of his 1977 6-month tour of Europe.
Under the Gyalwa Karmapa's guidance, Akong Tulku established a traditional 3-year meditation retreat at Samye Ling and launched the construction of the Samye Project; the building of a major traditional Tibetan Buddhist temple and an accompanying College, Library and Museum. Phase 1 of Samye Project consists of the temple, built entirely by members of the Samye Ling community, under the active leadership of Akong Tulku, who was often to be seen with a trowel in hand on the building site. The inside of the temple was exquisitely finished by a team of fine artists, sculptors, woodcarvers and other craftspeople working under the guidance of Sherapalden Beru. Sherapalden is one of the, if not the, finest master-artists of the Karma Gadri tradition.
The grand opening of Samye Temple took place on the 8th August 1988, with a commemorative plaque being unveiled by the XIIth Tai Situpa and the Rt. Hon. David Steel MP (now Lord Steel). Senior representatives of the world's religions attended. During this period of Samye Ling's development, various satellite centres and activities had come into being. Samye Dzong centres grew up in Belgium, Spain, Ireland, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the UK. On another front, the interest which many therapists and physicians showed in Akong Tulku's medicinal and therapeutic Buddhist skills led to the development of a unique therapy system, now thriving as the Tara Rokpa Therapy.Akong Tulku's main activity in the 1990s concerned the expansion of his humanitarian activities, principally in Tibet and Nepal, but also in Europe, where he created several soup kitchens to feed the homeless in major cities. With tremendous vigour and diligence, he has brought well over 100 projects into existence in Tibet, each project being a school, clinic, medical college, self-help programme or scheme to save the Tibetan environment. These are mainly located in isolated rural areas of the Eastern part of the Tibetan plateau.
In Nepal, working mainly through Rokpa International's Vice President Lea Wyler, Rinpoche has established an important project which feeds the hungry through the winter months. This has expanded to incorporate a children's home, clinic, womens' self-help workshops and so forth.
In 1992, Akong Tulku was one of the main people to discover the reincarnation of the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and he played a very important role in first finding him, then taking him to the Karmapa seat at Tolung Tsurpu monastery and later arranging the visit of the two Regents - the 12th Tai Situpa and the 9th Goshir Gyatsabpa - who gave him the naming ceremony and later enthroned him formally as the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Urgyen Drodul Tinley Dorje.
The increasing burden of his work in Tibet led Akong Tulku to request his brother, the Ven Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche, to take over the running of Kagyu Samye Ling in Scotland. Lama Rinpoche became the new Abbot and has since proved very successful, particularly in founding a strong monastic community there.