ARTICLE FROM HARROW OBSERVER
The following article appeared in the Harrow Observer in February 2007 under the title Holy Lama is Peaceful Pinner Neighbour. It also appeared in the Harrow Leader and the Ruislip & Northwood Gazette. We are grateful to the Harrow Observer and reporter Dhruti Shah for allowing us to reprint the article here.
Lelung Rinpoche is on a mission to save Tibetan culture and artefacts from extinction. An esteemed lama and teacher, he spoke to chief reporter Dhruti Shah about his life so far and how he has ended up living in Pinner.
Lelung Rinpoche finds Pinner a lot wetter and colder than his home in India. There are more people from diverse backgrounds wandering the streets and there is a distinct lack of monasteries. His home in Dharamsala in the Asian sub-continent is open plan and contains a busy office staffed by volunteers but at the moment he is living in a quiet, unassuming semi-detached house in St Michael's Crescent, Pinner. Yet what most of Lelung's neighbours do not realize is they have a high-ranking Buddhist teacher and lama living among them. Lelung, 36, has dedicated his life to the Eastern religion and has even been recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of a great teacher.
He was born to a farming family in India and given the name Palden Konchok but realised at a young age that an agricultural pathway was not one he was destined for and at the age of 10 he decided to become a monk. He said: "I wanted to learn more about Buddhism and thought the monks had interesting lives, so I decided to join them. I had to leave my mother and father behind and move to a monastery in southern India. It was hard but I had to do it." As a symbolic act of his renunciation of worldly life, he had to shave his hair off, wear robes, was schooled in Buddhist tradition and philosophy and also helped with farming and community work.
When he was about 14 years old, he met the Dalai Lama and was told by the exiled spiritual Tibet leader that he was the 11th Lelung Rinpoche, an eminent teacher who lived between 1326-1401 and has been reincarnated on several occasions. But Lelung had already had inclinations he was not an ordinary man. He said: "When I was just a monk in the monastery, I had a class mate who would treat me with respect and reverence because he believed there was something different about me. Since I was six or seven, I have had a spiritual side and enjoyed taking prayers and was happy whenever I saw the Dalai Lama. When he told me I was the reincarnation, it immediately felt right and comfortable." As soon the Dalai Lama made the announcement, Lelung's life changed. He was moved to another monastery--Kongpo Khangtsan--which had closer links with his predecessors, and was given an assistant. He also had to lead prayers rather than just follow them like the majority of the monks and was treated with deference.
With his position Lelung had more responsibilities and had to dedicate his life to the community previous Lelungs had dedicated their lives to. He was fast-tracked through his studies in order to take over his new duties much quicker. As part of his role, Lelung is now in charge of a variety of projects, most of which relate to preserving Tibetan literature and heritage. Lelung has come to England to promote two projects which he supports. The first is the Geden Phacho Bhucho Project. When Tibetans began to leave Tibet following the country's problems with China, many Tibetan Buddhist teachings were lost so supporters are trying to create a reference catalogue. Lelung is also searching for the teachings of his predecessors. Many transcriptions were lost when monasteries in Tibet were demolished during the 1950s. He has already written a book about the previous Lelung Rinpoches and now wants to publish another book focusing on the teachings.
He said: "I have been to England before but then I could not really speak the language. I met some friends who invited me to stay after hearing about my projects and now I lead meditation and teaching classes at The Lelung Dharma Centre, Manor Farm Hall, St Martins Approach in Ruislip." Although just a tenant in his friend's home in Pinner, Lelung has made it his own. There are pictures of the Dalai Lama up on the wall and Buddhist imagery everywhere. Lelung Rinpoche's reputation is spreading far and wide. He has already visited America on lecture tours and counts Uma Thurman, her father Bob and Richard Gere among his friends.