Tulku or Toulkou

Excerpted from Wikipédia

Un tülkou ou tulkou, contraction de tulpekou, parfois appelé à tort bouddha vivant, est, dans le bouddhisme tibétain, une personnalité religieuse (lama en général) reconnue comme réincarnation d’un maître ou d’un lama disparu. Cette tradition a débuté au Tibet, officiellement au XIIIe siècle, dans la branche karma-kagyu de l’école kagyupa avec la lignée des karmapa (Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193) étant considéré comme le premier karmapa). Les lignées des dalaï-lamas et des panchen-lamas sont des lignées de tulkous de l’école gelugpa. Ils sont considérés comme des émanations de bodhisattva, revenu sur terre pour aider les êtres.

Cette tradition est spécifique du bouddhisme tibétain.


Excerpted from RigpaWiki

Tulku (Tib. སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་, Wyl. sprul sku) — an incarnation. The word literally means nirmanakaya but is used in common speech to refer to any incarnate lama. The tradition of recognizing reincarnate masters began in Tibet in the early 12th century with the line of Karmapas.

Penor Rinpoche writes:

Traditionally a tulku is considered to be a reincarnation of a Buddhist master who, out of his or her compassion for the suffering of sentient beings, has vowed to take rebirth to help all beings attain enlightenment. To fulfill this aspiration, a tulku will generally need to go through the complete process of recognition, enthronement and training.

Formal recognition generally occurs soon after a tulku has been identified, but only after other important lineage masters have been consulted. The newly identified tulku does not take on any formal responsibilities at the time of recognition.

The next step of enthronement may or may not occur for a tulku, depending on the circumstances. Enthronement formally invests the tulku with the responsibility of furthering the activities associated with their particular tulku lineage. Thus, if there are specific teachings and practice traditions associated with their lineage, and if there are perhaps monks, nuns, monasteries, retreat centres, lay communities and so forth for which the tulku traditionally takes responsibility, then the tulku is formally vested with those responsibilities at the time of enthronement. In the event that an enthronement ceremony is conducted, it may take place soon after recognition or some years later. If the tulku is too young to assume their responsibilities upon enthronement, others may be entrusted to take on those responsibilities until the tulku is ready.

Finally, a tulku needs to complete a formal course of training which includes years of study and meditation. This training reawakens the tulku’s powers of insight and compassion and develops their skilful means for helping others. It is only after such training that a tulku is ready to take on the role of a teacher.


Excerpted from Wikepedia

A tulku (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་, Wylie: sprul sku, ZYPY: Zhügu, also tülku, trulku) is a reincarnate custodian of a specific lineage of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism who is given empowerments and trained from a young age by students of his or her predecessor.

High-profile examples of tulkus include the Dalai Lamas, the Panchen Lamas, the Samding Dorje Phagmos, the Karmapas, Khyentses, the Zhabdrung Rinpoches, and the Kongtruls.

Nomenclature and etymology

The word སྤྲུལ or ‘sprul’ (Modern Lhasa Tibetan [ʈʉl]) was a verb in Old Tibetan literature and was used to describe the བཙན་པོ་ btsanpo (’emperor’/天子) taking a human form on earth. So the sprul idea of taking a corporeal form is a local religious idea alien to Indian Buddhism and other forms of Buddhism (e.g. Theravadin or Zen). Over time, indigenous religious ideas became assimilated by the new Buddhism; e.g. sprul became part of a compound noun, སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་’sprul.sku’ (“incarnation body” or ‘tülku’, and ‘btsan’, the term for the imperial ruler of the Tibetan Empire, became a kind of mountain deity). The term tülku became associated with the translation of the Sanskrit philosophical term nirmanakaya. According to the philosophical system of trikaya or three bodies of Buddha, nirmanakaya is the Buddha’s “body” in the sense of the bodymind (Sanskrit: nāmarūpa). Thus, the person of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, is an example of nirmanakaya. In the context of Tibetan Buddhism, tülku means the corporeal existence of enlightened Buddhist masters in general.

In addition to Tibetans and related peoples, Tibetan Buddhism is a traditional religion of the Mongols and their relatives. The Mongolian word for a tülku is qubilγan, though such persons may also be called by the honorific title qutuγtu (Tib: ‘phags-pa and Skt: ārya or superior, not to be confused with the historic figure, ‘Phags-pa Lama or the script attributed to him, (Phags-pa script), or hutagt in the standard Khalkha dialect. According to the Light of Fearless Indestructible Wisdom by Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal: the term tülku “designates one who is ‘noble’ (or ‘selfless’ according to Buddha’s usage) and used in Buddhist texts to denote a highly achieved being who has attained the first bhumi, a level of attainment which is truly egoless, or higher.”

The Chinese word for tülku is huófó (活佛), which literally means “living Buddha” and is sometimes used to mean tülku, although the Dalai Lama has said that this is a mistranslation, as a tülku isn’t necessarily a realized being.

Meaning of “tulku”

Any Vajrayana practitioner can be reborn as a tülku, if they fail to reach Buddhahood or a Pure Land in the bardo of dying, bardo of dharmata or bardo of becoming.

Valentine summarizes the shift in meaning of the word tülku: “This term that was originally used to describe the Buddha as a “magical emanation” of enlightenment, is best translated as “incarnation” or “steadfast incarnation” when used in the context of the tulku system to describe patriarchs that reliably return to human form.

Finding a successor

Pamela Logan outlines a general approach for finding a successor:

When an old tulku dies, a committee of senior lamas convenes to find the young reincarnation. The group may employ a number of methods in their search. First, they will probably look for a letter left behind by the departed tulku indicating where he intends to be born again. They will ask the close friends of the departed to recall everything he said during his last days, in case he may have given hints. Often, an oracle is consulted. Sometimes a prominent lama has a dream that reveals details of the child’s house, parents, or of geographical features near his home. Sometimes heaven presents a sign, perhaps a rainbow, leading the search party to the child.