Lama Yeshe Losal
Chairman of Rokpa Trust
Abbot and Retreat Master of Kagyu Samye Ling
Executive Director of The Holy Isle Project
A Short Biography
Born in 1943 in Kham, East Tibet, Lama Yeshe spent his formative years
in education at Dolma Lhakang Monastery where his brother, Akong Tulku
Rinpoche, was Abbot. After a harrowing six month journey escaping from
Tibet as a teenager in 1959, Lama Yeshe arrived in India along with
Akong Rinpoche, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and a handful of other
exhausted refugees. On leaving the Tibetan Refugee Camp he attended the
Young Lamas Home School in Dalhousie and left in 1967 to serve as
Private Secretary to His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa at Rumtek
Monastery in Sikkim.
In 1969 Lama Yeshe joined Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa
Rinpoche in Scotland where they had founded Kagyu Samye Ling, the first
Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Europe, Five years later, having tasted
and become disillusioned with modern Western culture, from the trappings
of materialism to the false highs of sixties hippydom, he was reunited
with H.H. Karmapa and accompanied him on a tour of the United States. At
His Holiness's request Lama Yeshe and his friend Lama Tenzin Chonyi
established and managed the Karma Triyana Dharmacakra Centre in
Woodstock New York which is now H.H. Karmapa's main seat in the U.S.
In 1980 he took full ordination as a Gelong monk from His Holiness
Karmapa, on the auspicious date of the anniversary of Lord Buddha's
Nirvana and Parinirvana, at a ceremony attended by the most eminent
Tibetan Lamas of the time. Following his ordination Lama Yeshe entered a
strict, long-term solitary retreat under the guidance of the Abbot of
Karma Triyana, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. Lama Yeshe Losal also received
teachings from many of the highest Kagyu Lamas, including extensive
instruction and initiations from his root guru H.H. the 16th Karmapa,
and from The 12th Tai Situpa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Gyaltsap
Rinpoche, and the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche.
He later received specialised teachings from Tulku Urgyen who
supervised Lama Yeshe's 49 day Bardo retreat of total solitude and
darkness in Nepal. In 1997 Lama Yeshe was able to complete a second 49
day Bardo retreat on Holy Island in a specially built retreat-master's
cabin. This rare accomplishment has made him one of the foremost
meditation Masters alive today, about whom His Holiness the 17th Karmapa
recently said, "If you want to know about meditation, look no further
than Lama Yeshe Losal."
In 1985, at the request of his brother Akong Tulku Rinpoche, Lama Yeshe
returned to Scotland to continue his retreat at Samye Ling Purelands
Retreat Centre and in 1989 became Retreat Master with responsibility for
the western practitioners in the cloistered four year retreat. Despite
his heartfelt wish to remain in retreat for twenty years, Lama Yeshe was
obliged to return to the world in 1991 to take responsibility for the
running of Samye Ling and also to oversee the newly acquired The Holy
After a vigorous fundraising effort the small but imposing island off
Scotland's West Coast was acquired in 1992 to fulfill Lama Yeshe's dream
of establishing a long-term Buddhist Retreat at one end and an
interfaith Centre for World Peace and Health at the other. The beautiful
island was home to rare breeds of Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and Sanaan
goats and has since become a haven, not only for wildlife but also for
the many visitors who come on pilgrimage to its sacred sites, or to
enjoy a wide range of retreats and courses. Under Lama Yeshe's guidance,
and with the help from supporters around the globe, Holy Island has
become a model of environmentally-friendly living where humans and
animals live in peace and harmony.
The new Centre, with its tasteful accommodation and spacious Peace Hall,
was opened to the public in May 2003 and now hosts regular courses,
interfaith conferences and retreats while, at the south end of the
island, the original light-house cottages have been beautifully
renovated to create a long-term retreat house for women. The first
traditional Buddhist three-year, three-month retreat on Holy Island was
successfully completed in March 2006 by a multinational group of women
from eight different countries.
Under Lama Yeshe's direction Samye Ling continues to flourish and is now
is home to an increasing number of resident ordained Sangha and lay
practitioners. The Centre attracts thousands of visitors who come to
enjoy the magnificent temple and grounds or to attend one of the many
courses on offer. In recognition of his achievements at home and abroad
the title of 'Abbot' was conferred upon Lama Yeshe in 1995. One of his
first actions as Abbot was to establish the Samye Sangha Foundation to
help the monks and nuns become self-supporting.
Lama Yeshe Losal also travels extensively, giving teachings at many
associated Samye Dzong branches around the world and participating in
numerous interfaith events at the highest level. In November 1998 he
received the 'Sasana Kirthi Sri' award at the International Sarvodaya
Bhikku Congress in Sri Lanka and is the first Tibetan Lama to make such a
connection with the Theravadin community and receive this high honour.
Furthermore he was invited to tour the Buddhist sacred sites of Burma by
Dr Rewatadhamma followed by a pilgrimage to the Thai Buddhist holy
places hosted by Ajahn Sumedho. In the same year Lama Yeshe became the
first Tibetan Buddhist Lama to act as preceptor in a multi-national
ceremony bestowing full ordination to over a hundred women, including a
group of eleven nuns from Samye Ling.
His charismatic presence and good humour give Lama Yeshe the ability to
connect with people from all walks of life making him much in demand as a
guest speaker at many high profile events such as the prestigious Shell
International Conference at Maastricht where he was invited to speak to
the top six hundred managers in 1999. A year later he attended a week
long conference of the Global Business Network in Sonoma USA, where he
addressed leading CEOs from many of the world's multi-national companies
on the benefits of meditation.
In August 2003, on the occasion of his 60th birthday celebration, Lama
Yeshe was awarded the title "Rinpoche" in honour of his commitment to
establishing a strong ordained Sangha in the West, and in recognition of
his achievements as Abbot and his inspiring example to many thousands
of friends and students around the world.
His participation in inter-faith dialogue at home and abroad
continues apace. On Holy Island in August 2003, he hosted a visit of the
Religious Leaders of Scotland and has forged lasting friendships with
several of his fellow faith leaders. In February 2002, he attended the
European Parliament in Brussels as the guest of the Moderator of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Later that year, during the
celebration of Her Majesty the Queen's Golden Jubilee, he was invited to
a reception at Buckingham Palace where he met members of the Royal
family and presented Her Majesty the Queen with a traditional silk scarf
and Tibetan thanka.
Lama Yeshe Rinpoche's current focus at Samye Ling is to build the final
phase of the Samye Project by completing the educational wing which will
house the Samye College, Museum and Libraries. As Chairman of Rokpa
Trust Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche has responsibility for Kagyu Samye Ling,
The Holy Island Project and Kagyu Samye Dzong Centres worldwide. He is
also involved in the Trust's charitable projects both at home and
overseas. His energy and inspiration fuel the Trusts far reaching
activities which benefit so many people in so many ways. Indeed, he is a
living example of the joyful Bodhisattva in action.
Publications include "Living Dharma", also published in French, German,
Finnish and Spanish.
Joyful Living, Part One, Joyful Living, Part Two.