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A Brief Biography

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Sakya Society of Canada

Sakya Thubten Namgyal Ling


Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche
1931 - 2003

Namgyal Rinpoche was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1931, to parents of Irish-Scottish descent. After leaving a Christian Seminary College due to a 'crisis of conscience' he became involved with 'socialism' for some time. After a trip to Russia as part of a Canadian Youth delegation he became dissillusioned with politics upon encountering Soviet Socialism.

He travelled to England where he pursued his interest in the sciences and arts, especially healing, modern psychology, metaphysics and the Western Mystery Schools, particularly the Rosicrucion. In the late 1950's, he met a Burmese Buddhist Meditation Master named Sayadaw U Thila Wanta and travelled with him to Bodh Gaya in India, the place of the Buddha's Enlightenment, where he received the novice ordination of a Buddhist monk.

He then travelled on to Burma and received the full ordaination as a Buddist Monk and was given the name Ananda Bodhi. After intensive meditation in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka for several years he Awakened and received the Therevadin [Southern School of Buddhism] title Acariya - meaning an Awakened Meditation Master of the Buddhist Tranquillity and Insight meditations.

Invited by the English Buddhist Community to teach meditation, he returned to England in 1962 and while there, founded several retreat centres. He returned to Canada in 1965 and a year later, with a group of students, established the Dharma Centre of Canada in Toronto, Canada's largest city. They also established the first western study and meditation retreat centre near Kinmount, Ontario.

For the next five years, Rinpoche taught in Canada, mostly in Toronto and conducted deep meditation retreats for his students at the Kinmount Retreat Centre. During this period he also travelled all over the world, accompanied by up to as many as over 100 of his students, for retreats and studies at the planet's energy centres.

During visits to the principal Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist [Northern School] monasteries in India and Sikkim, he met H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizin and H.H. the XVIth Karmapa - the heads of 3 of the 4 major Buddhist Lineages of Tibet. He was recognised by H.H. Sakya Trizin as a Non-Sectarian Master of all the Tibetan Lineages.

H.H. the Karmapa, on their first encounter, recognized him as a long-missing 'Tulku' [the Tibetan word for the fully enlightened reincarnation of a very high master] of the previous generation in Tibet - the first westerner to be so acknowledged publicly. He was then enthroned as a Vajra Acariya - Tantric Meditation Master and Initiator. The Tibetan title of Rinpoche was conferred upon him and he was given the Dharma name Karma Tenzing Dorje Namgyal. He was usually referred to by Tibetans and Westerners as Namgyal Rinpoche.

Namgyal Rinpoche was unique in his ability to encompass and bridge the traditional methods of Buddhism and Western Forms of unfoldment and transmit the path of Awakening in universal terms, according to beings' interests and proclivities.

Rinpoche travelled extensively throughout the world giving teaching, most frequently at centres established by his students in Canada, United States, Guatemala, Britain, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

His love of travel, mainly by flying for many years and over 40 years of teaching finally took a toll on his health. Some long-standing problems, first generated as a young man in the East, caught up with him and at the end of a meditation retreat he was conducting at one of his favourite places in Switzerland he stated. "There is nothing else to say". He returned to the small private cottage on a lake where he was staying on October 22, 2003 and, in a final demonstration of impermanence, he manifested the passing away.

A luminary amongst Lamas, Namgyal Rinpoche was acknowledged by His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin, Head of the Sakyapa Tibetan Lineage in his Vajraghoshanam (Diamond Declaration), addressed to the Buddhist Community of Canada and written by him in July of 1978, which says:

"In inaugurating the Sakya Society of Canada I wish especially to acknowledge the pioneering contribution of the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche to the effective establishment of Tibetan Buddhism in Canada. Because of the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche's long and intimate association with the teachers and teachings of all four Tibetan orders, including the Sakyapa, and his valuable insights acquired through his training as a Vajrayanist meditation master, I am pleased to appoint him a Spiritual advisor of the Sakya Society of Canada."

Click To Visit His Holiness' Site Click To Visit Her Eminence's Site