The Governance of Ropka Trust
The Trust and the Trustees
Samye Ling was established as a charitable trust in 1967 and Akong Tulku Rinpoche, who is referred to as Akong Rinpoche, was then a trustee. In 1996 it was decided to constitute Samye Ling under Rokpa Trust which is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Akong Rinpoche then stepped down as a trustee and became the Founding President holding the sole power to appoint trustees.
After Akong Rinpoche passed away, the power to appoint trustees passed to His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje or the 12th Tai Situpa. In a letter dated 2 August 2014, the Karmapa appointed Lama Katen as a trustee. All the other trustees were appointed by Akong Rinpoche, namely
Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche (Akong Rinpoche`s brother, chairman of the Trust, and Abbot, who is referred to hereafter as Lama Yeshe Rinpoche),
Lama Zangmo (who has undergone long retreats and is the head of Kagyu Samye Dzong London),
Ani Lhamo (who has undergone long retreats and is the p.a. to the Abbot),
John Maxwell (who was then a barrister, subsequently became a judge and who had been a trustee of Samye Ling since 1975) and
Karma Cosgrove (Akong Rinpoche`s daughter).
It was always recognised that great care was needed in a decision to appoint members of his own family to trusteeship but Akong Rinpoche thought that his daughter was ideally qualified to be a trustee as she was a chartered company secretary with a masters degree in law and had a good knowledge of the working of Samye Ling and the other centres of Rokpa Trust.
The objectives of Rokpa Trust
The objectives are the promotion of Buddhism, the provision of medical care and therapy, and the provision of education and the relief of poverty. The constitution provides that no trustee shall be appointed unless they hold allegiance to and respect for the spiritual authority of the 17th Gyalwa Karma Urgyen Trinley Dorje, His Eminence the 12th Tai Situpa and their future incarnations and temporary successors.
Branches of Rokpa Trust
The branches are Kagyu Samye Ling (including Holy Isle and Glenscorrodale); Kagyu Samye Dzong London; Kagyu Samye Dzong Cardiff; Kagyu Samye Dzong Edinburgh; Kagyu Samye Dzong Glasgow; Kagyu Samye Dzong Scarborough; Kagyu Samye Dzong Surrey; Kagyu Samye Dzong Highlands; Lothlorien (a therapeutic centre for people recovering from mental illness).
Every year the representatives of the branches meet with the trustees to discuss all issues and to express opinions on how to improve the running of the trust. During the course of the year some trustees visit the branches, taking part in activities and offering support where required.
The lineage of an incarnate Tulku
Before his passing, Akong Rinpoche’s students requested that he return as the third Akong Rinpoche. He agreed to these requests and took steps to preserve the Akong Lineage. This involved appointing a regent and lineage holder to oversee the lineage until his reincarnation is ready to take over. He appointed his brother Lama Yeshe Rinpoche to this role. But he recognised that Lama Yeshe Rinpoche was only slightly younger than himself and might not be alive when the third Akong Rinpoche came of age. At a public meeting in the Samye Ling Temple on 15 August 2011, he appointed his nephew Lama Katen as the regent in waiting to take over as lineage holder after Lama Yeshe.
Rokpa Trust has a dedicated accounts team based at Samye Ling, responsible for the whole of the Trust including all the branches. A firm of auditors spends a full week at Samye Ling every year. As well as checking the accounts they also review the minutes of the trustees meetings and check that the Trust is managed properly.
Establishment of Monastery at Samye Ling
Before Samye Ling was established in Eskdalemuir, Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche who were then monks, expressed the intention that it should be a monastery. They established the “Samye Ling Monastery Fund” to finance the acquisition of the property. When they came to Eskdalemuir they were accompanied by a third monk, Lodro Thaye and Samye Ling was given the name “Tibetan Monastic Centre”. Both Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche took off their robes and Lodro Thaye went to India. With no monks there, the name “Tibetan Monastic Centre” was dropped and Samye Ling developed as a lay community.
In 1977 His Holiness 16th Karmapa made his second visit to Samye Ling. In a letter dated 1 July 1977 he instructed that Karma Drubgyud Darjay Ling be established as a monastery at Samye Ling and appointed Akong Rinpoche as the abbot. But the creation by the Karmapa of a monastery at Samye Ling was an aspiration and not an immediate reality because there was insufficient Sangha to run a monastery.
In August 1995 Akong Rinpoche handed the role of abbot over to Lama Yeshe Rinpoche who was an ordained monk and who gradually built up a Sangha at Samye Ling. On 30th March 2019 Lama Yeshe Rinpoche expressed his opinion to the trustees that the Sangha was now strong enough to establish a monastery at Samye Ling. In order to fulfil the intentions of Trungpa Rinpoche, Akong Rinpoche and the 16th Karmapa, the trustees passed a resolution that on 17 June 2019 (the auspicious day of the Lord Buddha`s Enlightenment and Paranirvana) the creation of Karma Drubgyud Darjay Ling Monastery would go ahead.
The trustees recognised that Lama Yeshe Rinpoche is getting older and that it was the intention of Akong Rinpoche that Lama Katen should succeed him as regent and lineage holder. The trustees therefore requested Lama Katen to take charge of the monastery. Lama Yeshe will continue in the formal role as abbot thereby ensuring a smooth transition.
Running Rokpa Trust under British law and culture.
In some respects Samye Ling is run as a traditional Tibetan monastery but in many respects this is not so. The decision making process is carefully balanced. The Abbot respects the legal authority of the trustees, and the trustees respect the spiritual authority of the Abbot.
Of the six trustees two are qualified in law as well as the company secretary (Choden / Sean McGovern). The three of them form a legal team with the responsibility to ensure that Rokpa Trust is run strictly in accordance with British law and the rules and recommendations of the Charity Commission. Every year the legal team conducts a review with a specialist trusts solicitor, an expert in charity law who comes to Samye Ling to advise.
The legal team presents to the trustees draft guidelines and policies for their consideration. These are discussed with branch representatives and are regularly updated. Rokpa Trust has guidelines and policies on the following subjects: Governance; Conflicts of interest; Complaints; Safeguarding; Abuse; Teachings and teachers; Therapy; Retreats; Data Protection; Copyright; Health and Safety; Emergency Procedures; Non-Discrimination; Mindfulness courses.
The most important thing is the purity of the Buddhist teachings and practice. Akong Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe Rinpoche have gradually adapted the traditional Tibetan attitudes by making Samye Ling and the Samye Dzongs accessible and consistent with western culture and laws but they have never compromised the purity of the Buddhadharma. Prior to joining the board of trustees, Lama Katen went through a lengthy period of retreat and training under Thrangu Rinpoche who declared that he was entirely suitable to take over the role of regent and lineage holder after Lama Yeshe Rinpoche.
We have confidence that the preservation of the Lineage and the Dharma teachings will be in very safe hands and we pray that when the time comes, Lama Katen will be in a position to hand over the centres in good order to the 3rd Akong Rinpoche.
The trustees of Rokpa Trust
23rd June 2019