During the height of Sino-Tibetan tensions, Akong Tulku Rinpoche was one of 300 exiled Tibetans forced to make a harrowing journey on foot through the Himalayas to the safety of northern India. The journey took 10 months and by the end of it only 13 of the group remained alive.
During the journey, Akong made a promise that, if he survived, he would devote his life to help others. He began to make good on that promise, when, in 1967, he co-founded Samye Ling with his friend Trungpa Rinpoche and increasingly turned his mind to the suffering of people around the world.
From his new home in the Borders, Akong’s underlying message of compassion and kindness shone through in his subsequent humanitarian activities in Europe, Tibet, Nepal, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Sitting in a peaceful location on the banks of the River Esk, today the monastery remains an international centre of Buddhist training, renowned for the authenticity of its teachings and tradition. Also a centre for the preservation of Tibetan religion and culture, Samye Ling is home to a residential community of more than 60 people, comprising both monastic and lay volunteers.
Sadly, Akong Rinpoche’s life came to a shocking end – he was murdered in China in October 2013 – but the film ends with what is very much a message of hope. There’s also a chance to learn more about the man and the making of the film with executive producer Vin Harris available for an audience Q&A after the screening.
Akong – A Remarkable Life screens 7.30pm, Thursday 26 October. Tickets £10 (£6 schoolchildren) available from Box Office on 01721 725777 or online.