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Tibet Oral History Project: Interview with Alak Rita Rinpoche on 4/7/2017

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Published on Apr 20, 2018

The interpreter's English translation provided during this interview is potentially incomplete and/or inaccurate. If you are not fluent in Tibetan, please refer to the interview transcript for the complete and correct English translation. Read the interview transcript in English at http://tibetoralhistory.org/Interview...

** This interview about life in Tibet was conducted by the Tibet Oral History Project. This non-profit organization aims to preserve the history and culture of the Tibetan people by interviewing elderly Tibetan refugees about life in Tibet before and after the Chinese invasion. Learn more at http://www.TibetOralHistory.org.

** Interview Summary: Alak Rita Rinpoche was born to a poor nomadic family in Khotse, Amdo Province in 1925. His family was completely dependent on their animals for survival. They owned only 20-40 at a time so Alak Rita Rinpoche’s father occasionally had to hunt Tibetan gazelle when they were desperate for food. Unlike many Tibetan nomads, they lived in a chamgur, which was a type of round tent that originated in Mongolia. Pastures were allotted to groups of 30-40 families and they relocated according to the seasons. When he was 8 years old, Alak Rita Rinpoche was recognized as the 4th reincarnation of the previous Alak Rita. He tells the story of how another revered lama, Kunkhyen Jamyang Sherpa, assisted the monks in locating him. They took him to Labrang Tashi Khyil, the biggest monastery in Amdo. Alak Rita Rinpoche describes each year of his education at the monastery and his success at philosophical debate as a result of his animated performances. At the age of 18 Alak Rita Rinpoche was assigned as an abbot to a local monastery, serving a 4-year term there before being assigned a 3-year term at another location. Then in 1956 he travelled to Lhasa to attend the Kalachakra empowerment and continued on to India for a pilgrimage. Although never formerly trained in traditional Tibetan Buddhist painting called thangka, he always had a strong interest and secretly taught himself by copying other paintings. He explains the religious significance of properly creating a thangka.

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