Arjia Rinpoche Biography
Arjia Rinpoche is one of the most senior Tibetan lamas to escape into exile from Tibet. He was the abbot of Kumbum Monastery, one of Tibet's six major monasteries, and was due to become the tutor to the Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama, but his conscience demanded he flee Tibet.

Page Index
1. Talk and book signing: 12 October 2010
2. Profile of Arjia Rinpoche
3. Book: Surviving the Dragon
4. Links to further information

1. Arjia Rinpoche talk and book signing: 12 October 2010
Arjia Rinpoche & Philippa CarrickTibet Society was honoured to host Arjia Rinpoche for a talk and book signing in London on 12 October 2010. Arjia Rinpoche's talk, "Surviving the Dragon", was held at St James's Church, Piccadilly which was full to capacity. Rinpoche gave the audience a unique and rare insight into monastic life during a period of major upheaval in Tibet's history, which mirrors the turbulent developments and tightening restrictions in Tibet today.

Arjia Rinpoche at Tibet Society talkRinpoche spoke of growing up in a monastery, living through the horrors of the Cultural Revolution and how he subsequently tried to work with the Chinese authorities to improve conditions for monks and nuns and for all Tibetans. As Abbot of Kumbum Monastery he used skilful means combined with compassion to carry out his responsibilities and protect the Tibetan cultural identity. He also said that one of the great strengths of the Tibetan people is their oral tradition, which has been instrumental in the survival of Tibetan culture despite the policies of the Chinese government, and has recently seen a resurgence in the Tibetan cultural identity, especially since the Spring 2008 protests.

Arjia Rinpoche signing his bookRinpoche told the audience of his growing frustration with the Chinese government's interference with Buddhist affairs and how he eventually decided he had to escape from Tibet when he discovered that he was to become the tutor to the Chinese government appointed Panchen Lama. In 1995 the Chinese authorities abducted Gedhun Chokyi Nyima, the young boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, and replaced him with a boy of their own choosing.

Rinpoche concluded his talk by calling on all Tibetans and supporters to follow the principles set by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to continue to work for the freedom of political prisoners and for Tibet as a whole.

Arjia Rinpoche & Fabian Hamilton MP Prior to the event, Arjia Rinpoche met with Fabian Hamilton MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet. Rinpoche gave an overview of his experiences and urged British parliamentarians to use their influence to call for meaningful negotiations between China and representatives of the Dalai Lama and demand the release of all Tibetan political prisoners.

Following the talk Rinpoche signed copies of his book, “Surviving the Dragon”. Tibet Society has currently sold out of the book, but is ordering further copies, which should be available to buy online in within the next few weeks.

2. Profile of Arjia Rinpoche
Arjia Rinpoche as a child Of Mongolian descent, Arjia Thubten Lobsang Rinpoche was born in 1950. At the age of two he was recognised as the incarnation of the father of Lama Tsong Khapa, the great 13th century Buddhist reformer, and the throne holder and abbot of Kumbum Monastery. He studied for several years at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, the monastery of the Panchen Lama and has trained with lineage teachers such as the Dalai Lama and Gyayak Rinpoche.

During the Cultural Revolution in Chinese controlled Tibet, Rinpoche was forced to attend Chinese schools, yet secretly continued to practice and study with his tutors. He was also forced to work in labour camps for 16 years.

Arjia RinpocheFollowing the death of Mao Tse Tung, Rinpoche was reinstated as abbot of Kumbum Monastery and oversaw rebuilding and renovations and re-established monastic studies. He also helped to set up schools and health clinics in the local community. He rose to prominence by working with the Chinese authorities, eventually becoming the Vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China.

The Dalai Lama and Arjia Rinpocheer, Arjia Rinpoche eventually escaped into exile in 1998 as he felt he could no longer compromise his spiritual beliefs which were strained due to the political atmosphere. Three years earlier China had abducted Gedhun Chokyi Nyima, a six year old boy recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama. Arjia Rinpoche was due to become the tutor of China's own appointed Panchen Lama, a position which Rinpoche felt would be disloyal to the Dalai Lama, the Buddhist religion and the Tibetan people.

Arjia RinpocheArjia Rinpoche now lives in the USA and has set up two centres dedicated to the preservation of Buddhist teachings, art and culture within and outside of Tibet and Mongolia (the Tibetan Center for Compassion and Wisdom in Mill Valley, California and the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana). He has written a book, Surviving the Dragon, which documents his struggle for freedom during the Cultural Revolution and Tibet’s ongoing fight for independence.

Surviving the Dragon book cover3. SURVIVING THE DRAGON: A Tibetan Lama’s Account of 40 Years of Chinese Rule
On a peaceful summer day in 1952, ten monks on horseback arrived at a traditional nomad tent in north-eastern Tibet where they offered the parents of a precocious toddler their white handloomed scarves and congratulations for having given birth to a holy child—and future spiritual leader.

Surviving the Dragon is the remarkable life story of Arjia Rinpoche, who was ordained as a reincarnate lama at the age of two and fled Tibet 46 years later. In his gripping memoir, Rinpoche relates the story of having been abandoned in his monastery as a young boy after witnessing the torture and arrest of his monastery family. In the years to come, Rinpoche survived under harsh Chinese rule, as he was forced into hard labor and endured continual public humiliation as part of Mao’s Communist "re-education."

By turns moving, suspenseful, historical, and spiritual, Rinpoche’s unique experiences provide a rare window into a tumultuous period of Chinese history and offer readers an uncommon glimpse inside a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Quotes from reviews
"This is the real story: a heroic account of the oppression of Tibet that needs to be told. In Surviving the Dragon, the world can hear the suffering and injustice that burden the Tibetan people and the heartfelt response of a truly wise lama. Maybe this will help us to act. I hope so." Jack Kornfield, author of The Wise Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

"Surviving the Dragon is much more than an autobiography. It is a fascinating history, told by an insider, of China's occupation, domination, and destruction of Tibetan culture. For anyone interested in the story behind the inner workings of China-controlled Tibet, this is a must-read told by a deeply religious leader." Mikel Dunahm, author of Buddha's Warriors and Samye.

"A deeply moving, vivid account that only a person who lived through these terrible events in Tibet could write. Free from polarized thinking and language, Arjia Rinpoche's intimately told, candid portrayal of life in an occupied land poignantly depicts one of the most massive brutalizations in human history. This stunning book exposes the consequences of a regime without compassion. I was often moved to tears." Jeffrey Hopkins, profess emeritus of Tibetan and Buddhist studies, University of Virginia.

4. Further information
Tibetan Center for Compassion and Wisdom
Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center
Wikipedia entry on Arjia Rinpoche

Back to page index

Image Click here to join
Click here to support