The “Conmanship” of Akong Tulku – Chogyam Trungpa, 1977

Posted on December 15, 2011

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Akong Tulku

Akong Tulku

The following text is an excerpt from the epilogue of the third edition of Chogyam Trungpa’s autobiography “Born in Tibet“, published in 1977. In 1967 Trungpa, together with Akong Tulku, had founded Samye Ling in Dumfriesshire, Scotland – the first Tibetan Buddhist centre in the West.

This text was not included in earlier prints or in later editions of the book. It demonstrates the extent to which Trungpa’s relationship with Akong Tulku had deteriorated at the point he left Britain for the USA. The passage is from pages 254-256 of the book, published by Shambhala.

Chogyam Trungpa and his wife Diana Mukpo (nee Pybus)

Chogyam Trungpa and his wife Diana Mukpo (nee Pybus)

“This marriage [to the 16-year old English girl Diana Pybus] stirred up a great deal of conflict amongst students at Samyê-Ling, who were unable to understand the significance of it, and among friends like Akong, who also missed the point. Akong in particular was very upset. His idea was that presenting the Dharma in the West should be conducted as a kind of conmanship. Having an English wife, he told me, left one without the needed privacy to work with members of other races, who thought differently than we and were therefore untrustworthy. The conflict became intense. Akong advocated deception, which he thought created an air of inscrutability with which to win people over. If people were not won over, they should be cast out. He was further afraid that occidentals would not serve us properly and would eventually cut our throats. With this point of view, there could be no one to join with in presenting the true Dharma.

Akong’s jealousy and resentment escalated to the point that he decided to seize the ancient seals of the Trungpas as well as personal belongings of mine; he even informed me that I was no longer permitted to use the stationery of Samyê-Ling. He propagated various subtle stratagems, joining forces with a group of conspiratorial colleagues whom, though in fact he did not trust them either, he incited to action by labelling me a renegade. One individual, by the name of Christopher Woodman, showed particular delight at this conflict. Mr Woodman was so inspired by the prospect of jealous warfare against myself and Diana that he attempted to convince the London Buddhist Society and other Buddhist organisations in Britain that my sense of dedication should be regarded as that of a neurotic criminal.

Matters having reached such a point, I invoked again and again the inspiration of Dorje Trollo Karma Pakshi. I even consulted the I Ching, which indicated that one should ‘cross the great water’. By now, the atmosphere of turmoil and neurosis projected by Akong and Mr Woodman had become demonic. I did not want to waste further time in waging war, but rather felt determined to proceed in my work of propagating the Dharma. In view of this, and the meagre potential for genuine Buddhism in Britain at this time, I decided to journey to the American Continent.”

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