Lama Yeshe, one of the leading figures in Buddhism along with the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa, is expected in Zimbabwe on Friday.
By Barbara Vitoria
This will be a high-profile visit by the Bhuddhism guru who is recognised as one of the most highly-attained meditators in the Western World.
Accompanied by Lama Zangmo and Ani Lhamo, he will be hosted by the Harare Buddhist Centre at 7a Ernie’s Lane in Monavale.
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 HH 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 HH Karmapa’s main seat in the US.
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.
Lama Yeshe Rinpoche received transmission in Nepal from Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche on the 49 day Bardo practice, which has to be accomplished in total solitude and darkness. He has since completed two more of these highly specialised retreats, once on Holy Isle and, more recently, at the Purelands retreat centre in Samye Ling. This rare accomplishment has made him one of the foremost meditation Masters alive today, about whom His Holiness the 17th Gyalwang 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 Island Project.
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.
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.