Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche 1931 2003

Truly a Bodhisattva pioneer, the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche transmitted the Teaching and Teachers of the Holy Buddha Dharma to the Western world - as well as clarifying the cultural constructs of its various vehicles - in order to reveal the universal nature of the Buddha Sakyamuni's pristine insight into the truth about one's subjugation to suffering and the way to liberation from it.

He was the first known Westerner in the modern era, in any Tibetan tradition, to be fully acknowledged and publicly enthroned as a Rinpoche - by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Head of the Karma Kargyu Lineage - in Rumtek, Sikkim in 1968; and by the Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche, according to the instructions of the Karmapa, at Green River, Ontario, Canada, in the autumn of 1971.

An eclectic and global guru, Namgyal Rinpoche began establishing centres in the 1960s, initially in England (1962), Scotland (1964), and Canada (1966), then in other countries such as the United States, Guatemala, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, and Australia.

A Samatha-Vipassana-Kammathan-Acariya of the Theravadin Tradition, he was also a Master of Tantra and Sutra. As a classical scholar in Sanskrit and Pali, he was one who was also quite accustomed to the usage of the Tibetan language and communicated clearly in several European and other languages.

The Namgyals are known for bringing the Dharma to where it has never been offered before. This Namgyal was an explorer-adventurer who raised high the Victory Banner of the Namgyals over nearly every part of the planet, travelling to teach at the power places on the globe and also clearing karma by conducting long meditation retreats at places where natural disasters had occurred or would later occur. He was the only Rinpoche to have visited the North and South Poles, to offer pujas and prayers for peace there.

Eschewing politics, he was the first Rinpoche to meet both of the 17th Karmapas. He often quoted His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (for whom he had a great affinity) to the effect that in this era, all the Tibetan Vajrayana schools should be considered as one.

Able to adapt to and serve the needs of any type of person, he was a spontaneous, inventive teacher and an ever-eloquent example of the fruit of practice. He could also realise any teaching that he received instantly and be able to transmit it immediately. He was recognised as the incarnation of one of the most brilliant Lamas of the 19th century, the famous Rime Lama - Mipham Jamyang Namgyal Gyamtso, (called Mipham Rinpoche), by the 16th Karmapa, and Dudjom Rinpoche, Head of the Nyingma Lineage. Manifesting as White Manjusri, he was recognised by the Nyingma Lama, the Ven. Khen Rinpoche. His Vajrasattva Siddhi was referred to by His Holiness Khalkha Jetsun Dampa Rinpoche, the 'Mongolian Dalai Lama'.

Though shy and retiring by nature, the Rinpoche loved to share the Dharma and he unstintingly gave of his person and energies, teaching for over forty years, even after several near-death experiences indicated that it was time for his body to rest.

He often shared the offerings that he received with his students for their food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and even travel expenses. The Rinpoche would also send donations made to him when he was teaching in other parts of the world to pay the mortgage for the retreat centre at Kinmount. He gathered fine art and craft collections from around the world to share with students who were not fortunate enough to travel, and from time to time would give whole collections to use as fund-raisers. He would even give his clothes and possessions to be auctioned off to raise funds for Dharma projects,

From time to time his 'Black Irish Humour' would win out, such as on the occasions he would complain that the attendant started every day off with a list of the sick and dying to be prayed for, without stating who was now 'off the list'. He would then cite the name of a person for whom he was still praying, even though everyone who knew that person knew that they had died twenty years ago!

He could, in turn, be playful and fun-loving, compassionate or awesomely wrathful when necessary, unconventional and conservative; he was a shape-shifting siddha manifestation of the compassionate wisdom of emptiness.

From the Wisdom of Emptiness, Out of Compassion, may his return be swift and auspicious.

From a biography of Namgyal Rinpoche
by Wesley Knapp & Lama Sonam Gyatso (2005)
on the Sakya-Namgyal Centre website:
Rab Wilkie (Editor)

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