Geshé Damchö

Geshé Damchö

Lam Rim Chö Ling in Raglan, Wales – 1983

Ngak’chang Rinpoche has always been on friendly terms with Lamas of all schools – and it has always been important to him to maintain a happily non-sectarian relationship with all the schools of Vajrayana.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche points out, however, that this is not the same as Ri’mèd:
I am a practising Nyingma and although I have been fortunate enough to have received transmission from Lamas of all schools and traditions – I do not pretend to be a practitioner of Ri’mèd. The Ri’mèd masters had mastered their own traditions before they set about mastering the traditions of other schools. I simply persevere in maintaining my samayas. Having taken the advice of my Root Lamas on what I should practise and what should be set aside – I happily maintain commitments as best I can to all the Lamas I have been fortunate enough to meet in the past. That is the importance of having a Root Lama. Those without a Root Lama or those who have confusion regarding who their Root Lama may be – are bound to practise every Vajrayana commitment they have ever taken, so the rôle of vajra master in a practitioner’s life is of the utmost importance. My contact with Lamas of all schools has therefore provided me with the strongest samaya in terms of never disparaging other schools.

This photograph was taken in 1983 at Lam Rim Chö Ling – Pentwyn Manor – a Gélug centre under the spiritual directorship of Geshé Damchö in Penrhos, Raglan, Gwent, Wales. This was the first Buddhist centre at which Ngak’chang Rinpoche gave teachings and empowerments for students interested in the Vajrayana. At that time he taught Gélug and Nyingma students alike and helped each with their own practices. Ngak’chang Rinpoche has known Geshé Damchö since 1976 when his friend the Gélug Lama lived in Bromley Kent. Geshé Damchö had been invited to Britain by Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s friend Ven. Ani Tsultrim, an English-born Tibetan nun who had taken monastic ordination from HH Gyalwa Karmapa. Ngak’chang Rinpoche often went to visit Geshé Damchö and Ven. Ani Tsultrim in Bromley before they moved to Wales and established the retreat centre. Ngak’chang Rinpoche helped them to organise various retreats in Wales in order to generate interest in Geshé Damchö’s teachings in Britain.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Geshé Damchö have always had a cordial relationship and their students have always been welcome at each others teachings. Geshé Damchö at one time had a meditation group in Cardiff which Ngak’chang Rinpoche and his students used to attend on a regular basis, until Ngak’chang Rinpoche moved from the area (first to Dorset and then to North Wales – before returning to the Cardiff Bay Area with Khandro Déchen in 1995). Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen have always believed strongly in encouraging good, co-operative, supportive relations between different Buddhist groups within local areas and have always tried to promote open-mindedness with regard to the widest scope of the teachings in order to foster a real understanding in students.

Ngakma Nor’dzin Pamo comments:
It was always clear that Geshé Damchö and Ngak’chang Rinpoche were close friends. They were always to be seen laughing together and I remember Geshé Damchö nicknaming Rinpoche ‘Heruka’. I remember many happy retreats at the Lam Rim Centre – even though one woman once described the multi-directional shower in ‘the purple bathroom’ as the closest thing to the freezing hells. There was always a lot of laughter there, and the residents were always kind and generous. In the early days Ngak’chang Rinpoche and his first apprentices would always travel up to the Lam Rim Centre to celebrate tsog with Geshé Damchö and his students. We were always made very welcome and Rinpoche particularly loved the tunes of the Gélug Lama Chöpa tsog.