Ngala ’ö-Dzin Tridral and his wife Ngala Nor’dzin Pamo are a teaching couple within the Aro gTér tradition of the Nyingma School. They amalgamate practice, teaching, and the pastoral care of their apprentices with professional and family life.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin was born in Whitchurch, Cardiff into a Catholic family. He says of the
earlier part of his life:
My mother was always kind. I think this is important regardless
of religious beliefs – just to be kind. I think this was one of the greatest influences in
From an early age, Ngala ’ö-Dzin had an interest in science
fiction. He read widely during his teens and this was when he first began to read books on
Buddhism, amongst other religions. He comments:
Discovering Buddhism was more like remembering than learning for the first time. I’d
started to look for somewhere I felt more at home To some extent this was precipitated by my
interest in science fiction. I was starting to think beyond the environment in which I grew
He began to question his Catholic faith and decided to find out what Buddhism was
like in practice. To this end he started visiting the Lam Rim Buddhist Centre, where he first met
Ngala Nor’dzin, Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen. Ngala
’ö-Dzin was fortunate to share many car journeys to and from this Gélug Centre
with Ngak’chang Rinpoche, and had the opportunity to ask many detailed questions. He found
Rinpoche’s explanations particularly clear and appropriate and says:
It was inspiring
to hear the teachings in contemporary Western vernacular, and to find that faith was not required,
but rather the development of direct experience. It was through Ngak’chang Rinpoche that I
developed the real confidence that every question had an answer. Answers always came in a language
which reflected the language of my questions, and I soon developed an ease of communication with
him which cleared away many conceptual obstacles.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin found himself having an unusual number of accidental meetings with Ngak’chang Rinpoche whilst walking through Cardiff, and on these occasions was able to ask Ngak’chang Rinpoche many of the questions which concerned his practice. He found these interactions enormously valuable, especially because it seemed strange at that time to receive teaching in the high street as if it were the most normal thing in the world.
Having found that the teachings Ngak’chang Rinpoche presented were so appropriate to him, Ngala ’ö-Dzin began to request teachings outside the context of the Buddhist centre and followed in Ngala Nor’dzin’s footsteps in asking Ngak’chang Rinpoche to become his teacher. Thus Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin became the first personal students of Ngak’chang Rinpoche and the beginning of the Aro gTér sangha.
After considerable practice, study and retreat, Ngala ’ö-Dzin asked
Ngak’chang Rinpoche to be his tsa-wa’i Lama (root teacher or vajra master). However in
order to be ordained, Ngala ’ö-Dzin still had to undertake a pilgrimage to India or
Nepal. Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin’s second child, Richard, was barely
a year old at that point and Ngala ’ö-Dzin thought that it would be some time until his
family commitments allowed the space to travel to India. However to his astonishment, Ngala
Nor’dzin’s response was simply,
How about February? and so he set out in
February 1991 to McLeod Ganj in Northern India.
On arrival in Delhi, Ngala ’ö-Dzin had expected to meet with Ngak’chang
Rinpoche and travel north with him. Unfortunately Ngak’chang Rinpoche was ill, so he had to
make the journey alone. He remembers:
I didn’t enjoy Delhi when I first arrived and
was very happy to make my way north. Once I was in McCleod Ganj, I felt quite at home.
In May 1991, on return from his pilgrimage, Ngala ’ö-Dzin became the third person to take ngak’phang ordination after Ngala Nor’dzin and Ralzhig Pema Legden, and become a vajra disciple of Ngak’chang Rinpoche.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin is reknowned for his sense of humour and quick wit. It has been commented that his presence among the sangha creates a sharpness to the atmosphere whilst his light heartedness also puts everyone at ease. His characteristics of perseverance and determination are also respected amongst his apprentices. An example of this is his inspirational approach to hard work. When apprentices were tiring during the 2005 craft retreat, his humour and ability to work well into the evening gave everyone a fresh incentive to continue. He is also known and loved for his gentleness of personality and his calm presence – qualities which show in his patience when answering questions in sitting groups or at open retreats.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin is acknowledged as the historian of the Aro Lineage. The combination of his penchant for detail and his exceptional memory, means that he is able to recount stories from the history of the lineage at sangha gatherings. It is often Ngala ’ö-Dzin who will remember the name of a historical figure when others are unable to do so. Ngala ’ö-Dzin has been recognized as the rebirth of Khandro Chö-ying Nyima ’öZér by Ngak’chang Rinpoche. Chö-ying Nyima was the sang-yum of Ngala Nor’dzin’s previous rebirth, Dawa Ngödrup, and used to accompany him into the jungle to collect medicinal herbs. She was also one of the Five Mothers.
Ngala ’ö-Dzin has trained and worked in computers in various capacities for more than 20 years. He currently (2005) works full-time as project manager in the IT department of Cardiff University. He has a preference for Linux and likes the way that Open Source software has created choice for people once more. Ngala ’ö-Dzin’s computing expertise and his knowledge of HTML and Perl script enables him to assist with the development of the Aro gTér website. His capacity to work full-time in an exacting and demanding profession, whilst still remaining fully available to both his family and his sangha is inspirational to his apprentices. Often he is fully engaged with Buddhist commitments for a whole weekend without taking any leave from his employment, yet his energy and enthusiasm to serve as a medium for Vajrayana teachings for his apprentices is untiring. It is hoped that soon the sangha of Ngala Nor’dzin and Ngala ’ö-Dzin will grow sufficiently for him to be able to work part-time and dedicate more of his time to teaching and practice. This would without doubt be of benefit to all.