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 Journalist with Ebola was named Reincarnated Lama - residual news from the Trungpa world

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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Journalist with Ebola was named Reincarnated Lama - residual news from the Trungpa world   Mon Oct 06, 2014 10:45 am


Journalist With Ebola Was Named Reincarnated Lama

Reincarnated Buddhist leader to passion for Liberia: American with Ebola took unusual path

By MICHELLE R. SMITH Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

A passion for Liberia and the plight of its people drove Ashoka Mukpo to work there, first to aid relief efforts and then as a photojournalist to tell its story. But Mukpo has an unusual story of his own: As an infant, he was identified as a reincarnated Tibetan lama, a role he chose not to pursue.

Mukpo, 33, was diagnosed Thursday with Ebola and was being cared for at a treatment center in the Liberian capital, Monrovia. His family said he was expected to leave there Sunday and arrive at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha Monday.

His mother, Diana Mukpo, comes from an upper-class aristocratic family in Great Britain. At age 16, she left boarding school in Scotland and married Tibetan Buddhist leader Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who founded the Shambhala community that spread Buddhism in the West. She was one of several wives.

They moved to Boulder, Colorado, in the 1970s and set up a Buddhist center, where notables such as Allen Ginsberg, Joni Mitchell and William Burroughs studied and Trungpa advocated tantric sex.

After starting a family with Trungpa, Mukpo's mother became romantically involved with another of her husband's followers, Dr. Mitchell Levy.

Levy is Mukpo's biological father, Mukpo said in an interview with the Dorje Shugden Buddhist website, but Trungpa raised Mukpo as his own son.

When Mukpo was a few months old, he was recognized by another Buddhist lama as the ninth Khamnyon Tulku, or reincarnated lama, a spiritual leader.

Mukpo's older half-brother, Gesar Mukpo, son of Diana Mukpo and Trungpa, also was named a tulku and succeeded his father as leader of the Shambhala community after his death in 1987.

After he died, Mukpo's mother and Levy married and moved to Providence. Levy is medical director of the intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor and chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Brown University's medical school. Mukpo's mother is a horse trainer who owns a stable outside Boston.

Mukpo attended Moses Brown, a Quaker day school in Providence. He received degrees from Georgetown University and the London School of Economics.

His more traditional life sometimes caused angst.

"When you're 15, you can't say, 'Dude, I'm a reincarnated spiritual master from the hills of Tibet, and my father was this womanizing, drinking, Tibetan-crazy-wisdom genius,' without people thinking you're weird," he said in the Dorje Shugden interview.

In 2002, he traveled to Tibet with his parents to visit the monastery that's his family's spiritual home.

"Someone put a sick baby in front of my face and asked me to blow on it. I did. I'm not going to be the guy who says, 'This whole thing doesn't make sense for me, sorry!'" he said in the interview. "Sometimes I do feel like it wasn't my decision to take this title on, but now I feel like someone put me in the position of abandoning it."

Mukpo ultimately decided not to embrace his status as a reincarnated lama, although he's still a practicing Buddhist, Levy said.

"He's proud of his street cred and his intellectual credibility that he feels he's earned, and for him, the reincarnated tulku, although a powerful tradition and a very important tradition, I don't think he wanted to feel like he was being handed something he didn't earn," Levy said.

Mukpo has worked at Human Rights Watch and spent two years in Liberia working as a researcher for the Sustainable Development Institute, a nonprofit shining light on concerns of workers in mining camps outside Monrovia.

Levy said his son returned to Providence in May and intended to pursue a career as a journalist. By August, he saw what was happening in Liberia and decided to return, Levy said.

"His intention in going back was to illustrate the tremendous burden and impact of the Ebola epidemic," Levy said. "He sensed that the international community was isolating Liberia rather than reaching out to help them."

Mukpo said he was filming inside and around clinics and high-risk areas but doesn't know how he was infected, Levy said.

Levy said he's been reassuring his son, who is staying in an isolation tent and will receive better care in the U.S., that he'll recover.

Besides NBC, Mukpo has worked for Vice News and other media outlets. In an opinion piece in Al Jazeera America on Sept. 17, Mukpo wrote that in the last few weeks he had seen children close to death turned away from treatment centers and heard stories of people waiting days to be picked up by ambulances.

He called the American response to the crisis underwhelming and slow.

"The most critical element of all is time," he wrote. "Every life saved matters."
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Jcbaran

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PostSubject: Re: Journalist with Ebola was named Reincarnated Lama - residual news from the Trungpa world   Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:25 am

from the Dorje Shugden website - not dated, so unclear when this was posted and where it originated - could have been some years ago:

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER: Ashoka Mukpo was born to an American Jewish father and an aristocratic British mother but was raised as the son of Chogyam Trungpa, the legendary Tibetan lama who preached enlightenment and practiced free love and alcoholic excess. Left: Trungpa with Ashoka's half-brother, Gesar, in the 1970s.

Ashoka Mukpo, 31: Buddhism's White Shadow

When your father is a New York Jew, your mother is an English aristocrat, and your name is Ashoka Mukpo, you spend a lot of time answering questions about your identity. "It's like within 20 seconds of meeting somebody, I've gotta put my whole life on the table," Ashoka, 31, says. "I usually just say, 'Oh, my parents were hippies.' If it's a more formal situation, I'll say, 'Oh, my stepfather was Tibetan.'" And if he's talking to someone who knows something about the story of Tibetan Buddhism coming to the West, he'll share the truth. "Then I say, 'My dad is Chögyam Trungpa,' and God only knows what kind of absurd conversation is going to follow."

Ashoka's mother, Diana, married Trungpa at 16, taking his Tibetan family name, Mukpo. She stood by him throughout the seventies as he built a hippied-out empire centered in Boulder, Colorado, and achieved wider cultural renown as a guru to Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell. Unlike the Dalai Lama, who sticks to the Buddhist basics—minimizing suffering in life—Trungpa initiated his students into the Tantric side of the tradition: the effort to liberate the energies of everyday life to speed up the path to enlightenment. His community, eventually called Shambhala, was notorious for its booze-and-sex-fueled blowouts that were rationalized as Tantric exercises—transmuting the poison of alcohol or liberating oneself from the attachment of conventional romantic love. "I don't know, man," Ashoka says. "I think if it were this day and age and I rolled up and saw a bunch of white people and all the crazy [banned term] that was going on, I might head for the hills."

By 1980 Trungpa had grown increasingly erratic, and Diana, while remaining devoted, took a lover, Mitchell Levy, Trungpa's personal physician. Trungpa's own sexual infidelity was never at issue—he had been shamelessly promiscuous since puberty. When Ashoka was born in 1981, all eyes in the delivery room were trained on his lily-white skin. Trungpa, true to his credo of "crazy wisdom," was unperturbed. "I was his son," Ashoka says. "It didn't matter that I wasn't his seed—I was his son."

Ashoka was recognized as a tulku at 8 months old. The previous Karmapa called Trungpa to announce he'd had a dream that Ashoka was the ninth reincarnation of Khamnyon Rinpoche. "They called him 'the Mad Yogi of Kham,'" Ashoka says of his spiritual forebear. "He had a bit of a reputation as a wild man, which I don't think I'm living up to."

Ashoka, who lives in London with his girlfriend, is in New York City for a United Nations conference. Wearing a gray pinstripe suit instead of his usual jeans and T-shirt, he bears a passing resemblance to a young Jeremy Piven. He's smart and tightly wound, guided by a righteous idealism that led him to work for the nonprofit Human Rights Watch for three years after college and most recently to the London School of Economics, where he earned his master's in international development. In the fall he's off to join a nonprofit working on land rights in Liberia. "It's actually mellower than people think," he says.

After Trungpa's death in 1987 at the age of 48, from the alcoholism that accompanied his relentlessly swinging lifestyle, Levy and Diana married and moved Ashoka to Providence, where family life settled into a closer approximation of the American norm. But Ashoka always knew he'd been marked for a special destiny as a spiritual leader, which was exciting, like having a secret superpower, but which also made him feel like a freak. He recalls the time his parents suggested he take two Tibetan monks who were visiting from a monastery in India to basketball practice. "I told them, 'You guys don't get how incompatible this is with my self-conception right now,'" Ashoka says. "When you're 15, you can't say, 'Dude, I'm a reincarnated spiritual master from the hills of Tibet, and my father was this womanizing, drinking, Tibetan-crazy-wisdom genius' without people thinking you're weird as [banned term]. Now it's just a pain in the [banned term]."

Ashoka's identity confusion took on a poignant edge during a family trip to Tibet when he was 22. "My title and role is really meaningful to people," he says. "I had old ladies and kids coming up to me and crying. Peasants with nothing offering their life savings. For God's sake, someone put a sick baby in front of my face and asked me to blow on it. I did. I'm not going to be the guy who says, 'This whole thing doesn't make sense for me, sorry!' Sometimes I do feel like it wasn't my decision to take this title on, but now I feel like someone put me in the position of abandoning it."

Ashoka is on his way to a celebration commemorating the 25th anniversary of Trungpa's death at the Shambhala Meditation Center in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood—one of some 165 centers that, along with dozens of still briskly selling books, maintain Trungpa's legacy. We arrive late to the burgundy-and-saffron-draped hall crowded with New Yorkers in their twenties and thirties. After an hour or so of sitting on the floor cushions, meditating and chanting, volunteers pass around plates of potluck dinner and cups of sake, Trungpa's favored drink.

Ashoka does his part, eating and drinking merrily. But venturing beyond these rituals to live and teach as a tulku lama won't happen in this lifetime. "For me, going too far down the rabbit hole of Tibetan culture doesn't make any sense," he says. Not that he's discerned any pressure from the Tibetan Buddhist establishment. "It's easy for them to write me off. I'm the white guy."
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