Symposium on the Tulku System
Venerable Arjia Rinpoche, Venerable Telo Rinpoche, Venerable Thepo Rinpoche, Professor Donald Lopez, Jr., Professor Paul Harrison, Mr. Tenzin Tethong
The Tulku (sprul sku) system has been an extremely important aspect of Tibetan society and Tibetan religious life for many centuries, and continues to this day to capture the imagination of people around the world. It is unique to Tibet, and to those cultures whose development has been influenced by Tibetan Buddhism, including Mongolia and the Himalayan states. While the notion of rebirth or reincarnation is found throughout the Buddhist world, nowhere else do we find this particular practice—of identifying young children as the rebirths of religious teachers and leaders who have recently passed away, and then installing them in their place—developed as thoroughly and as systematically as in Tibet.
The symposium is intended to provide an opportunity for in-depth exploration and discussion of the Tulku system, with the three tulkus attending offering an insider’s perspective on this extraordinary historical phenomenon. While the Tulku system can be considered from any number of aspects—historical, social, religious, political, psychological, educational, and so on—each participant will be addressing those features that he considers most important and interesting, while reflecting on his own experience.
The three Tulkus attending will first speak for 20-30 minutes each on their own experience of being a tulku and/or their current thinking about the Tulku System, its past, and the challenges which now face it. After a short break we will then move to a roundtable discussion of the issues, moderated by Professor Donald Lopez (University of Michigan) and bringing in Professor Paul Harrison and Mr Tenzin Tethong (Stanford University). There will be some time for the audience to ask questions at the end.