Arjia Rinpoche

Arjia Thubten Lobsang Rinpoche

In the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism, "Rinpoche" is a title given to a tulku - a reincarnated being of a previous holy person.
When he was two years old, Arjia Rinpoche was recognized as the incarnation of the father of Lama Tsong Khapa, the great thirteenth-century Buddhist reformer, and, as such, became the Abbot of Kumbum Monastery located in eastern Tibet.
Among Tibetans and Mongolians, it is a very high honor to have your child become a monk and receive a Buddhist education.


In 1958 when he was eight years old, Rinpoche was subjected, as a member of the "exploiting class," to humiliations by the Chinese Communist Party. When the "Chinese Great Leap Forward" occurred, Rinpoche had to disrobe and attend a Chinese school. As a result, he was indoctrinated in the Chinese Communist ways, but due to his teacher's influences, he secretly maintained his Buddhist identity.

From age twelve to fourteen when the Chinese policies slightly eased, Rinpoche studied at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, the monastery of the Panchen Lama.

From age fourteen to twenty-seven during the Cultural Revolution, the political situation got much worse again, and he had to work in the fields at hard labor with other lamas and monks.

In 1979 he was reinstated as Abbot of Kumbum Monastery and advanced in the governmental hierarchy. In 1998, he was about to become leader of the Chinese National Buddhist Association. In a crisis of conscience, he escaped from Beijing to Guatemala and, with the help of the Dalai Lama sought asylum in the United States.

Rinpoche settled in Mill Valley, California where he established the Tibetan Center for Compassion and Wisdom. In 2005, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked him to become the director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center in Bloomington, Indiana. He moved to Bloomington in February 2006 where he has renovated the center and continues to promote Buddhist teachings and Tibetan/Mongolian cultural events. He hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama's visit to Bloomington in October 2007.


SURVIVING THE DRAGON: A Tibetan Lama's Account of 40 Years of Chinese Rule

by Arjia Rinpoche (Rodale - 272 pages with original photographs) - Introduction by the Dalai Lama

Surviving the Dragon is the story of Arjia Rinpoche's growing up as the reincarnated abbot in Kumbum, one of Tibet's major monasteries. As a child, he was treated like a living Buddha; as a young man he emptied latrines, but after the death of Mao Tse Tung, he rose to prominence within the Chinese Buddhist bureaucracy. When he was slated to become the tutor of the Chinese selected Panchen Lama, he fled Tibet rather than betray his Buddhist religion and his Tibetan and Mongolian heritage. Rinpoche's unique experience provides a rare vantage on this tumultuous period of Tibetan and Chinese history as well as a glimpse of life inside a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Surviving the Dragon opens a window to events from inside Tibetan-Chinese history during the final half of the twentieth century, a conflict that continues today. Rinpoche published his memoirs in the Mongolian language in 2009. Work is underway to translate Surviving the Dragon into Tibetan and Chinese.