Namgyal Rinpoche in N.Z.       by Tarchin Hearn

A short history of the contributions of Namgyal Rinpoche and his students to bringing the Buddha Dharma to New Zealand. Namgyal Rinpoche first arrived in NZ accompanied by about a dozen students in the spring of 1971. That visit to the North Island of about 10 days allowed a brief reconnoitre for future visits.

In the winter of 1973 Namgyal Rinpoche gave a three month intensive retreat to approximately 85 people in the Lake Rotoiti and Rotorua area. During that time Rinpoche gave teachings on classical insight practice along with many empowerments as well as teachings on the Ngon - Dro and the more advanced practices of Mahamudra.

This retreat was held in 3 locations. A number of summer cottages were rented on the shores of Lake Rotoiti for the intensive meditators. A family retreat happened at a motor camp at the other end of the lake. Another group retreated at Blue Lake. A number of New Zealanders came for teachings and some helped with the future establishing of the Sphere Group.

At the end of this period of retreat, Namgyal Rinpoche travelled to India to visit H.H Karmapa and the Ven. Kalu Rinpoche at Sonada and H.H. Sakya Trizin in Dehra Dun. Some of the students from the retreat in NZ travelled with him. About 30 students stayed in NZ and became the core of the Sphere Group of NZ The rest of the students returned to Canada.

The Sphere Group was mostly centred in the Tauranga area where Catherine Rathbun and Roy Brown began to teach and in Christchurch where Chime Shore was teaching. In 1975, the Sphere Group purchased a property near Nelson which became the Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre.

In autumn 1976, Namgyal Rinpoche visited Tauranga and taught the students of Catherine. He then travelled to the South Island and gave teaching from April 11 - 18 in Christchurch.

In 1978 the Ven. Karma Thinley Rinpoche who was residing in Toronto, Canada and had many connections with Namgyal Rinpoche and the Dharma Centre of Canada, came to Tauranga at the request of Catherine Rathbun were he gave the initiation of Guru Rinpoche at Welcome Bay on Feb 1st and also gave a puja on top of Mt. Maunganui. He then travelled to Karma Choling where he gave teachings Feb 5 - 12 on the Seven Methods of Training the Mind for Enlightenment. On March 4 he gave the initiation of Thousand Armed Chenrezig and Milarepa. At that time Karma Thinley asked Catherine to urge Namgyal Rinpoche to go to Karma Choling to give a blessing.

On 13 of March 1978, Namgyal Rinpoche arrived again in NZ . On March 14, he gave teachings in Tauranga followed by a Manjusri initiation on March 16 at Welcome Bay. After that Rinpoche travelled to Wangapeka where he gave teaching and the initiations of Chenrezi, Vajrapani and Red Manjusri. He then returned to Tauranga for teaching on Mahamudra and Green Tara. After this Catherine Rathbun and Roy Brown drove the Rinpoche to Karma Choling where he gave a blessing before departing by ship for Japan on 28 of March.

December 3 - 15 1978, Namgyal Rinpoche taught at Wangapeka Study and Retreat Centre where he taught the 16 Buddha Body Practice and gave the initiations of Red Chenrezi and Thousand Armed Chenrezi

1979 Aug 25 -26 The Ven. Beru Khyentze Rinpoche gave teachings at Wangapeka and then travelled to Christchurch where he gave further teachings to members of the Sphere Group.

Since that time Namgyal Rinpoche has returned to New Zealand on many occasions giving teachings as far north as Cape Rianga and as far south as Fiordland.

Namgyal Rinpoche (Ven. L. G. Dawson), a Canadian of Irish-Scottish descent, grew up in Toronto, Canada. After attending a Christian Seminary College and participating in politics, he travelled to England where he pursued his interest in the sciences and arts especially modern psychology and metaphysics. There he met the Burmese Mahathera, Ven. Sayadaw U Thila Wunta, and shortly after, travelled to Bodhgaya, India, where the Ven. Sayadaw ordained him and gave him the name, Ananda Bodhi. In Burma, he trained in the Theravadin tradition of the Buddha for approximately eight years and also studied meditation with other teachers in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Invited by the English Sangha Trust to teach, he returned to England and while there, founded several retreat centres, including Johnstone House in Scotland, (now know as Kagyu Samye Ling). He returned to Canada in 1966 and, with a group of students, established The Dharma Centre of Canada, a study and meditation centre north of Toronto, Ontario.

Rinpoche (he was known then as "The Bhikkhu") taught in Canada for approximately eight years, mostly in Toronto and at the Dharma Centre. During this period he also travelled abroad accompanied by many of his students. During visits to the principal Tibetan monasteries in India and Sikkim, he met H.H. the Dalai Lama and H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa who, recognizing him as tulku, had him enthroned as Karma Tenzin, Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche. Soon after, Namgyal Rinpoche played a major role in the first visits to the West by three great meditation masters: H.H. Sakya Trizen, H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa, and the (late) Ven. Kalu Rinpoche, all of whom he was and still is very close to.

Rinpoche's interest in all formations (including this planet and its flora and fauna), is as tireless as it is vast. He has a unique ability to bridge the traditional methods of Buddhism and modern western thought and to transmit the path of awakening in universal terms according to being's interests and proclivities. Rinpoche continues to travel throughout the world giving teaching, most frequently in centres established by his students in North and Central America, Great Britain, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia.


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