Namkha Drimed and Shambhala International
By Barbara Blouin
The marriage of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche to Khandro Tseyang in Halifax in 2006 marks the entrance onto the Shambhala stage of His Eminence Terton Namkha Drimed Rinpoche, Khandro Tseyang’s father, a Nyingma teacher, and head of the Ripa family of Orissa, India. Since giving a Gesar empowerment shortly before the wedding, Namkha Drimed has bestowed several empowerments to the international Shambhala community. His son Gyetrul Jigme Rinpoche has also been teaching and conducting ceremonies. Starting this July, his role in North America will increase dramatically.
Who is Namkha Drimed? Here are some excerpts from his spiritual biography.
His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche was born in 1938 in Tibet. From an early age, he would experience various verses of spiritual teachings welling forth spontaneously in the expanse of his awareness. His childhood games consisted entirely of playing at conferring empowerments, explaining teachings, performing sacred dances, and the like, for he was concerned solely with spiritual activities. … Namkha Rinpoche began to sing vajra songs day and night and he demonstrated in various ways the uncontrived conduct of a spiritual master. … From the age of eight, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche has had numerous pure visions of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), who conferred on him empowerments and spiritual advice beyond measure. Due to the blessings he received on these occasions, His Eminence was granted personal transmissions of a veritable ocean of profound hidden treasures of enlightened intent.
The narrative continues:
His Eminence Namkha Drimed Rabjam Rinpoche, as a sublime incarnate master who ranks among the highest masters of awareness, continues to bestow ripening empowerments, liberating teachings and spiritual advice to countless beings who are to be guided in these ways — in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and recently in other countries in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, including the United States. … His Eminence is a regent of the Lake-Born Lotus, Guru Padmasambhava.. … Previously, in India, he was Sariputra…. Also he was Kukuraja who received a personal transmission of the tantric teachings concerning the supreme secrets; and as the Master Mahahumkara, he accomplished Samyak, the deity of enlightened mind. … In particular, Namkha Drimed Rinpoche was reborn as the omniscient Longchenpa, often referred to as ‘The King of the Dharma’, the famous Great Perfection master.
Namkha Drimed left Tibet in 1959. After a long and difficult trek through the Himalayas he settled in a Tibetan refugee camp in northern India. Fifty years later, his family is based in Orissa, India. The Ripa Ladrang Foundation, Namkha Drimed’s fundraising vehicle, is based in White Plains, NY, where one of Namkha Drimed’s daughters, married to an American, now lives. Namkha Drimed and his son, Gyetrul Jigme, oversee the operation of three monasteries: in India, Nepal, and Tibet. In addition there are some humanitarian projects in the Orissa area. Namkha Drimed also has an American sangha, with groups in the New York City area, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area. According to the Ripa Ladrang web site: “It is Rinpoche’s vision that sometime in the near future he would like to develop a dharma center (or centers) in the United States, including the purchase of land and the building or leasing of facilities, to serve as his base in the U.S. for teaching in the West.”
Chogyam Trungpa and Namkha Drimed met in Tibet in 1958, only months before Trungpa went into hiding, and not long before Namkha Drimed also began his journey out of Tibet. Trungpa Rinpoche was giving the vast Rinchen Terzod (Treasure of the Mine of Precious Teaching) at Yak Monastery, where Namkha Drimed, along with hundreds of others, received this empowerment, which went on for months. At some point during this time Namkha Drimed asked Trungpa to write a Gesar supplication for him. The title is: “The Ocean of Play of Enlightened Activity: A Daily Offering to Warrior Gesar, Great Being Töndrup, King of Wermas, Tamer of Enemies.”
So far this year, Namkha Drimed has been very active in the Shambhala world. In April, the Sakyong took part in a seven-day Gesar drupa led by his father-in-law at the new monastery in Nepal, Rigon Tashi Choeling, during which time he twice asked for donations for the monastery from his worldwide sangha via Shambhala News Service. More on that later in the article.
In May and early June, Namkha Drimed gave several days of teachings and ceremonies at a Gesar Festival at Dechen Choling in France.
As for North America, most, though not all, of Namkha Drimed’s events will take place at Shambhala city and practice centers. Between July 4 and September 19 he will give 11 teachings of various types: empowerments, wealth pujas (called Lama Norla Empowerments), and Phowa retreats at 7 Shambhala Centers and at Karme Choling. In Los Angeles and Berkeley he will preside over three-day fundraising events (combined with ceremonies) for the benefit of his monasteries and related projects.
Various other events will take place in Purchase, NY and at centers of other Tibetan teachers. Finally, he will hold “Tibetan community events” in Boston, Chicago, and Minneapolis.
Wealth pujas and divinations are two features of Namkha Drimed’s dharma activity. In recent years he has given at least three wealth pujas in the West: two in Purchase, NY in 2005 and 2007, and one in France in 2007. E-mails to Sangha-Announce from Namkha Drimed’s students in the United States encouraged people to offer $100 in order to attend the 2007 wealth puja because “so many people have received benefit for their prosperity and overall positive conditions.” In 2008 Namkha Drimed will give two Lama Norla empowerments this summer in Berkeley and Los Angeles. This ceremony is described as one of his own terma and a “wealth practice.”
Instructions for Namka Drimed’s divinations are found on his web site. Those who are seeking his spiritual guidance are asked to put their questions in writing and send them to him. Sample questions provided on the web site are: “Are the indications positive for me to marry Robert Jones?”; “Would it be positive or negative for me to do retreat in December in Hawaii?” Divinations are done either in person, where circumstances permit, or by phone or e-mail. Those requesting divinations are asked to make a donation.
In a recent development, the Sakyong has begun to actively support his father-in-law’s fundraising projects, asking the Shambhala community worldwide to make donations to Rigon Tashi Choeling, the new monastery in Nepal. The first of two requests for donations, on April 22, 2008, describes the Sakyong’s participation in a seven-day Gesar drupa conducted by Namkha Drimed.
“Traditionally,” the announcement reads, “during such drupas, the sangha makes offerings to the assembled lamas and monks…. The Sakyong would like to offer this opportunity to any Shambhalians who are experiencing obstacles or who may have particular intentions that they are trying to fulfill. The Sakyong has stated that if one makes such an offering, then, karmically, it is as if you engaged in the drupa practice yourself. The time to make these offerings is short. …
Two days later, a second announcement came from Shambhala News Service. The content of this announcement is essentially the same as the first, although the tone is more urgent:
24 Apr 2008. The time available to the Shambhala community to make offerings at the Gesar Drupa to fulfill intentions and overcome obstacles has been extended into tomorrow. … If you wish to make such an offering, you have until tomorrow, Friday 25 April, at 2pm Atlantic time, 1pm Eastern, noon Central, 11 am Mountain, [etc] through Shambhala’s giving web site. Offerings may be made either by credit card ….
Commentary by Author
Reading these words, I felt queasy and sad. I remembered how consistently Chögyam Trungpa warned us about spiritual materialism. Please read the summary and excerpts of those teachings.
Finally, I would like to end by inviting readers to consider a few questions.
- At this time in its history, how relevant are Chogyam Trungpa’s teachings on spiritual materialism to Shambhala International’s ship of state, and to its principal teachers? Is the ship on track? Or has it been blown off course?
- As a community, are we dedicated to cutting through spiritual materialism?
- The Sakyong stated in an e-mail dated April 22, 2008 that “if one makes such an offering, [he is referring to donations to Rigon Tashi Choeling, one of Namkha Drimed’s monasteries] then, karmically, it is as if you are engaged in the drupa practice yourself.” If cutting through spiritual materialism is something to which we aspire, how can we interpret trading drupas for merit as anything other than spiritual materialism?
- How should we, as individual sangha members, set priorities for how we use some of our disposable income for making donations to Buddhist teachers and organizations?