US Cameraman with Ebola was identified as Buddhist master in childhood

By Karen Lee Ziner,, October 3, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (USA) -- Freelance Providence cameraman Ashoka Mukpo,  who became infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia, was identified in childhood as a “tulku,” or reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist master, according to published reports and a film made by his half-brother.

It was a role Mukpo chose not to pursue.

The 2009 documentary film “Tulku” explores the personal experiences of five young Western men identified as tulkus – including Mukpo.

A YouTube trailer of the documentary shows Mukpo explaining why he has chosen a secular life, rather than that of a tulku:

“I don’t think that my role is to be a teacher, and be wearing the robes and be up on a throne. If that makes me a failed tulku, then maybe that’s just my karma. But I still think I can be of some kind of benefit to somebody, and that’s, I think, what being a Buddhist is about.”

Mukpo was working as a researcher for the Sustainable Development Institute, a Liberia-based non-profit organization, when former Journal staff writer Phil Marcelo interviewed him there in September of 2013 for one of a series of stories called “Rebuilding Liberia: The Rhode Island Connection,” about the nation’s struggles 10 years after the end of years of civil war.

Watch Trailer of Tulku (2009)