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Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche
1931 - 2003



  • The following words, composed in relativity by an aspiring writer of little scholarship or insight, present a personal view (with reference to others' accounts), as a preliminary attempt to communicate some of the magnificence that was Namgyal Rinpoche. They are not needed by those with open hearts, who had eyes to see and ears to hear - those who were fortunate to encounter him while he lived…
  • This writer received the Rinpoche's blessing to write the Rinpoche's biography. Historical details, photographs, teachings and personal encounter materials are actively solicited. Please e-mail to Wesley Knapp - Subject: N.R. Bio
A luminary amongst Lamas, he 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."

An eclectic and global guru, Namgyal Rinpoche began establishing centres in the '60s in places like Brazil, Canada, the United States, Guatemala, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Australia, amongst other places. He was also asked to aid and bless temples in places such as Tibet, India, Bhutan and Mongolia. 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, of whom he said, " - 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 - Mipam Jamyang Namgyal Gyamtso - called Mipam Rinpoche, by HH Karmapa 16, the Head of the Kargyu Lineage and Dudjom Rinpoche, the 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, [LINK] 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, medicines 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, such as when he gave his museum-quality batiks to Sakya Namgyal. He would even give his clothes and possessions to be auctioned off to raise funds for dharma projects,

One of the major activities in his life was the teaching of healing, prayers for healing and actual healing. He inaugurated 'Star Group' healing for linked group minds and taught, as well as encouraged, exploration into all forms of healing. When a young man who smashed his leg in a motocross crash was in danger of having the leg amputated, the Rinpoche used to telephone almost every day for months in order to determine, in a very specific way, how the massive hole in the leg was closing, how the bones (which could be seen in the hole) were knitting, and how the new flesh was granulating - all this so that he could visualise and pray for exactly what was necessary for the healing to progress as rapidly as possible.

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.

A very brief biography:

Early Life - George Dawson
The Rinpoche was born on October 11, 1931 in Toronto, Canada. He was given the birth name Leslie George Dawson and was raised there with his younger sister. His Irish father was a police detective and his Scottish mother a nurse. He spent his summers at his uncle's farm in Hamilton, which is now the Spring Farm Botanical Garden. Having had many mystical experiences in early life, he felt a call to the ministry, attending Jarvis Baptist Seminary for a short time where he learned many arts such as 'homiletics' and 'higher (biblical) criticism'. But he did not enter the ministry and moved on to further studies in Philosophy and Psychology at University of Michigan, Ann Arbour. There followed an intense period of involvement with the Socialist youth movement, CCF, NDP, etc. culminating in a trip to Russia to address a youth conference in Moscow. Disenchanted with the practice of communism as opposed to the ideals of socialism, he returned to London during the Suez crisis. At this time he stayed with a Rosicrucian couple in London where he encountered the Western Mystery tradition as well as Buddhism and he practised meditation regularly.

The Dhamma - Ananda Bodhi Bhikkhu
In 1956, during the Buddha-Jayanti celebrations of 2,500 years of Buddhism, he visited the London Buddhist Society, where he met the Venerable U. Thila Wunta Sayadaw, a meditation master from Burma. He was immediately drawn to the Sayadaw as his teacher, and the Sayadaw invited the young George Dawson to follow him to Burma. Travelling overland to India that year, he re-joined the Sayadaw in Buddhagaya where he received Novice ordination as Samanera Ananda. Continuing on to Burma, he received Higher Ordination at the Shwe Dagon Temple in Rangoon and was given the name Ananda Bodhi Bhikkhu. There he studied the Vinaya and Abhidhamma. He subsequently received meditation training in all of the 40 classical Samatha practices under Sayadaw's guidance and later studied the Vipassana (insight) meditation system under Mahasi Sayadaw. He then travelled to Thailand for further Vipassana retreat work under Chao Kun Pra Rajasiddhimuni at Wat Mahadhat. While there, he also mastered the Wat Paknam 16 Buddha Body meditation system. In addition he pursued his Dhamma studies in Sri Lanka, studying such Pali Sutta texts as the Dhammapada and commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga. After more than 5 years of intensive training in the East, the Venerable Ananda Bodhi received the title of Samatha-Vipassana-Kammathan-Acariya, teacher of both the calm and insight meditation practices and was given the red belt of a meditation master.

Formal Teaching - Britain
He was invited by the English Sangha Association to return to England and become the Resident Teacher of the Vihara at Camden Town, in London. He took up residence in the fall of 1961 and began teaching meditation and giving regular classes in Dhamma studies. He also taught at the Buddhadhamma centre in Manchester and other centres. In 1962 he was invited by the London Buddhist Society to give courses in meditation at their annual Summer School. At that time he met a number of Tibetan Lamas such as Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche who had just arrived from India to study comparative religion at Manchester College, Oxford. He was also invited to speak at the Fifth International Congress of Psychotherapists in London, where he met Julian Huxley, Anna Freud and R.D.Laing, to name a few. In 1962, the Bhikkhu went back to Thailand to meet with one of his teachers, who subsequently returned to teach at the Vihara in London. Inspired by him, many students gathered around. Bhikkhu Ananda Bodhi expanded the London centre by purchasing, through the Sangha Association, a regency mansion on Haverstock Hill which became known as the Hampstead Buddhist Vihara. Seeing a need for a suitable meditation centre far away from London, he purchased an estate in Staffordshire, known as Biddulph Old Hall.

More Teaching - Canada, Europe, Scandinavia
In October, 1964, the Bhikkhu flew back to Canada for a short visit, "...To re-connect with his roots". At the invitation of the incumbent Rev. Ishiura he gave classes in the Japanese Toronto Buddhist Church on Bathurst Street. Upon returning to England and sensing a need to open up further avenues of exploration, the Bhikkhu began searching for a new, independent 'Contemplative Centre'. The Johnstone House Trust was set up to purchase Johnstone House, an old hunting lodge in Scotland. This centre later became known as Samye Ling. An intensive and innovative year of work with students ensued - including the new 'Mandala Therapy' - followed by a tour of Northern Europe, Scandinavia and Scotland before returning to Canada.

The Bhikkhu - Dharma Centre of Canada and the World
The Bhikkhu arrived in Toronto on September 23, 1965. Teaching at the Toronto Buddhist Church he gathered more students. In March of 1966 he founded a charitable organisation, the Dharma Centre of Canada, requesting of its members that land be found for a meditation centre. He then returned to Scotland to teach at Johnstone House. In April of 1966 he returned from Scotland to inspect an old mink-farm of 400-acres, with a beaver dam, near Kinmount. A trust was set up to secure private loans and the land was purchased for the sum of $4,500. The Kinmount Centre was born. The Bhikkhu loved to travel the world and took groups of his students with him. He travelled extensively in North and South America as well as in Europe.

In 1968 he led 12 students to India on a freighter. During this journey, they visited Sri Lankan Viharas, and in Burma they met with the Bhikkhu's teacher, U Thila Wunta Sayadaw and explored the Shwe Dagon Temple, before landing in Calcutta in January, 1968. There, they stayed at the Mahabodhi Society, meeting the Maharaja of Sikkhim who arranged visas to visit Sikkhim. They then made a pilgrimage to Buddhagaya and finally travelled to Darjeeling, enroute to Sikkhim.

Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche - Meeting the Karmapa
On arrival in Gangtok, Sikkhim, the Bhikkhu went with his students to Rumtek Monastery, the seat of H.H. the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa. He was immediately ushered into the presence of His Holiness, who greeted the Ven. Ananda Bodhi as an old friend and recognised him as the reincarnation of the famous Mipam Namgyal Rinpoche. He seated the Bhikkhu beside himself, on the same level and gave a private empowerment of Milarepa.

In front of a gathering of several hundred monks, nuns, yogis, yoginis and leading Lamas of the Kargyu school, the Gyalwa Karmapa officially bestowed on him the name and title of 'Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche.' His Holiness gave to Rinpoche, as a sign of this recognition, various precious items including Mipam's original robe. The robe was a symbol of the lineage being passed on - a continuation of the Namgyal line.

No longer known as 'Anandabodhi,' Namgyal Rinpoche now began to spend the greater part of his time traveling, meeting students throughout the world, and performing work to heal the planet and its people. He became renowned as a great 'Lama' and especially as a master of the Mahamudra meditation tradition founded in the tenth century by the Mahasiddhas Tilopa and Naropada, and handed on in Tibet by Milarepa and Gampopa.

It is said that fairly early in his life as a Buddhist monk, while undergoing a program of meditation, Rinpoche awoke to full Enlightenment. It was understood by some who knew him well that he abode fully in the Enlightened State, while functioning in a human way on earth. He was said to be one who could "speak with authority" about the spiritual Path. It is certainly true that those who met Namgyal Rinpoche knew they were in the presence of an exceptional human being. There was an overwhelming sense of spiritual love and kindness and wisdom that emanated from him. It must also be said, however, that he never capitalized on this charisma - quite the opposite, he was humble and always honest to his students, playing down his own importance, while enhancing the goodness in others.

It was not long before Namgyal Rinpoche was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and a close friendship developed between His Holiness and Rinpoche. The Venerable Dudjom Rinpoche, the late head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, also declared his respect for Namgyal Rinpoche, confirming the earlier assessment by the Gyalwa Karmapa that this man born in Canada was in fact the reincarnation of the renowned Tibetan saint Mipam Namgyal.

Rinpoche continued to teach and travel widely throughout the world, visiting centres established by his students in Canada, the United States, Guatemala, England, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. His love of travel and over forty years of teaching inevitably took a toll on his physical condition, and some long-standing health problems finally caught up with him on October 22, 2003 when he passed away at one of his favorite places-a small private cottage on a lake in Switzerland. Namgyal Rinpoche devoted his entire life to the welfare of beings, and his dedication to their liberation, his unbounded interest in this planet and all its flora and fauna, was as tireless as it was vast. A master of Mahamudra, he was unique in his ability to encompass and bridge traditional Buddhist forms and western practices, transmitting the path of awakening in universal terms according to beings' interests and proclivities.

The Bhikkhu then travelled to Dehra Dun in the Himalayan foothills of Northern India where he met His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin and his teacher, His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche.

In 1971, the Bhikkhu returned to Rumtek with 108 students, and received the full Tibetan ordination as the Venerable Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche. Many empowerments were received at that time, including Dorje Phagmo, Red Chenresi and Hevajra.

In the spring of 1972, at Green River, near Markham, Ontario, the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche was formally enthroned with full ceremony, by the Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche, according to the instructions received from His Holiness, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.

Copyright 2005 Wesley Knapp: Sakya Thubten Namgyal Ling, Green River, Markham.
(With thanks, the very brief biography section includes extensively edited excerpts from "A Time to Remember" - Copyright 2003 by Sonam Gyatso).

Some publications of the Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche's Teachings:


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