This photograph was taken at an open retreat in 1990, early in the evolution of the UK sangha. At this time Ngala Nor’dzin and Ralzhig Pema Legden were the only ordained members of the sangha and wore red robes. Red has been the symbolic colour of Vajrayana since the time of Yeshé Tsogyel (whose gTérmas are the core of the Aro tradition), who instructed her disciples to return to the authentic flame-colour which Padmasambhava intended.
Khandro Déchen can be seen on the left, and three other practitioners who later took ordination: Ngakma Pema Zangmo (next to Khandro Déchen), Ngala ’ö-Dzin Tridral (fourth from left), and Ngakpa ’ö-Nyi Dorje (second from right).
Ralzhig Pema Legden is wearing the maroon shamthab that Ngak’chang Rinpoche himself made at the instruction of Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche, and which he wore for many years and throughout long retreats in India and Nepal. Ralzhig Pema Legden kept this gift from his Root Teacher, with all its memories and associations, after he began wearing the white skirt. He then passed it on to a practitioner seeking ordination in the style of the Khordong gTér (the personal lineage of Kyabjé Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche) which requires maroon robes.