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Tenth anniversary of the passing of Sri Kushok Bakula

December 17, 2013:

A special ceremony has been held at Leh, the capital town of the Indian Himalayan district of Ladakh, to commemorate the passing of the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche ten years ago, on November 4, 2003. He was 86 years old.

Sri Kushok Bakula Rinpoche was one of the great supporters of the importance of environmental action by faiths, and was a long-time friend of ARC. He cowrote the first Buddhist Statement on Nature a document which has had huge influence in the Buddhist approach to environmental action in the past decade.

His lifelong commitment to both education and the environment made it fitting that a Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Scholarship to the Yale University School of Forestry and the Environment was announced at the anniversary celebrations. This scholarship will enable students from the Himalayan region to study at the highest level and thus bring lessons of environmental issues and solutions back home.

This dedication to environmental action was something mentioned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in her condolence message: “I am very sad to learn about the passing away of Sri Kushok Bakula and to say how fondly I recall our most interesting discussions at London in 2002. I know also how significant a part Sri Kushok Bakula played in the Alliance of Religions and Conservation’s work and his wisdom and counsel will be sorely missed.”

Buddhist teachers and masters have constantly reminded us of the importance of living in tune with nature, to respect all life, to make time for meditation practice, to live simply and use nature as a spiritual force. Buddhist Statement on Nature
Bakula Rinpoche was a remarkable person whose life managed to combine the highest spiritual purposes with the exercise of considerable political influence, without compromising either.

He was the 19th incarnation of Arhat Bakula, one of the 16 great Arhats, or enlightened saints, entrusted by the Buddha Shakyamuni with spreading his teachings after his death. He was born into the Ladakhi royal family on May 19th 1917, and recognised as an incarnate lama at the age of five by the 13th Dalai Lama.

When he was a child he moved to Lhasa to study at the Drepung Loseling Monastery, and returned to Ladakh in 1940.

It was an age of extraordinary political, religious and social turmoil. And at the time of India’s independence in 1947, aged 30 years old, he was the spiritual leader for Buddhism in Ladakh.

At the request of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandid Jawaharlal Nehru and with the support of both Buddhist and Muslim community leaders he became the political representative of Ladakh at the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly in 1949. Later he went on to represent the state in the Indian Parliament and later became an ‘Ambassador Extraordinary’ to Mongolia.

His tireless and determined work on behalf of the Ladakhi people is acknowledged to have transformed the remote and impoverished kingdom with the development of education and practical infrastructure and many positive social developments. He was also uniquely important in maintaining links with Buddhists in Tibet after the Chinese occupation of 1950 and providing spiritual support to Buddhist communities in communist-era USSR and Mongolia.

An active campaigner on behalf of the global environment with a firm belief in inter-faith understanding, Sri Kushok Bakula’s wide-ranging spiritual influence made him an important contributor in establishing ARC’s aims and world-wide network among Himalayan Buddhists, while his sureness of purpose and clarity of thought were an inspiration to those who were fortunate enough to work alongside him.

“He was an extraordinarily holy man,” remembers ARC secretary general Martin Palmer. “it was a huge honor to have known him, and worked with him: he was wise, and he was engaged. And he was passionate about the need for us to be compassionate to the Earth and all living beings, in every day of our lives and in every decision we make.”

The twentieth incarnation of Kushok Bakula was born January 2005. He was enthroned at Pethup Gonpa in Spituk on August 12, 2010. He is studying at the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Karnataka State in India.


The Buddhist Statement on Nature in Faith in Conservation, World Bank 2002

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