Remembering Akong


Akong is murdered. Of all people. It is hard to take it in.

I met Chöje Akong Tulku Rinpoche on a number of occasions.

I recall him saying, “Do you help with our soup-kitchens?”

I recall him saying, “Meditation has nothing to do with sitting. Meditation is awareness without judgement in the whole of your life”.

I recall him saying, “There may be another view and I may be wrong”.

I recall him saying, “When you experience a difficult emotion, you must look it in the eyes, as I am looking at you now”.

As I looked into his eyes, something changed in my heart.

I was deeply moved by Akong Rinpoche’s kindness and compassion, his wise simplicity, his astonishing stability and quietness of heart.

To talk with him was like talking with a tree. One felt a great stability as if no storm could uproot him. It feels a bitter blow that he is gone.

At the same time, one knows that Akong would not have lost his balance. He would have looked into the situation calmly and kindly , ready “to offer help where help is needed”.

Akong, I love you.

I asked Akong whether teaching the piano was harmful, whether it was part of a culture of distraction, display and competition, whether the arts distract us from the spiritual life. It is an old worry amongst people of many religions and I was feeling uneasy. I don’t quite know what I said. He put my mind at rest with a few encouraging, clear-sighted words.

When I felt very much discouraged about teaching focusing-and-listening, I went to see Akong Rinpoche. I did not know how to describe it to him and would have felt ashamed to use words less simple than his own.

I said, “I teach people to listen to one another with compassion”.

I said that it was not going well and perhaps not doing any good. I said I might give the work up.

He said, “This is good work. You will go on”.

I trusted the Akong Rinpoche. He didn’t mention Buddhism to me or karma or any of that stuff. I don’t think it’s of the essence. I don’t know that he thought so either.

What did Akong see as the essence?

I think three things:

1 to be continually aware of your present experiencing without either clutching at it or pushing it away; and

2 in the light of what that awareness teaches you: to be kind, gentle and understanding with everybody, no matter who they are, including any being that can feel pain, and including yourself; and

3 to bring help where help is needed.

These simple principles are very hard to live (and very easy). Still, they seem better than distraction, on the one hand, or bitterness, on the other.

There is some sense in which the heart is self-healing and needs only awareness and kindness to heal.

Or I seem to have found it so. But then, as I heard Akong say, “There may be another view and I may be wrong”.

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