Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche

H.H. 16th Karmapa and Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche


 Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche

1931 - 2003

The Venerable Namgyal Rinpoche was born in Toronto, Canada, of Irish-Scottish descent. During his high school summers he worked at a medical research laboratory, which fostered an early interest in biology and medicine. In his late teens his natural tendencies led him to study Theology at Jarvis Baptist Seminary in Toronto, where he learned many arts such as Homiletics and Higher (biblical) Criticism. He did not enter the ministry at that time but moved on to further studies in Philosophy and Psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. This was followed by a period of involvement in the socialist youth movement in Canada, culminating in a visit to Russia to address a youth conference in Moscow.

In 1956 he travelled to London, England, where he explored the Western Mystery tradition and Buddhism and began to practise meditation regularly. There he met the Burmese Mahathera, the Venerable Sayadaw U Thila Wunta and shortly after joined him in Bodh Gaya, India, where Sayadaw gave him the novice ordination and the name Ananda. Following Sayadaw to Rangoon, Burma, he received the higher ordination as Bhikkhu Ananda Bodhi. After intensive meditation in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka, he received the title Samatha-Vipassana-Kammatthana-Acariya ‘Teacher of Tranquillity and Insight Meditation’.

In 1962 the Venerable Ananda Bodhi returned to England at the invitation of the English Sangha Trust to be their incumbent Resident Teacher. That same year he was a special guest speaker at the Fifth International Congress of Psychotherapists in London, where he met Julian Huxley, Anna Freud and R.D. Laing, to name a few. He spent the next three years giving extensive teaching in London and other parts of England. In addition, he was instrumental in establishing several meditation centres in that country as well as at Johnstone House in Scotland, which subsequently became the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in 1967.

He returned to Canada in 1965 and began teaching in Toronto. In March 1966 he and a group of his students established the Dharma Centre of Canada, a non-profit, charitable organization. In April that same year, a four hundred acre property near Kinmount, Ontario, was purchased for the purpose of study-meditation retreats. For the next five years the Bhikkhu (as he was called by students then) taught in Canada, mostly in the Toronto area and at the Kinmount retreat centre. During this time he also travelled widely and taught in North and Central America and abroad accompanied by many of his students.

During a pilgrimage in 1968 to the principal Tibetan monasteries in India and Sikkim, he met with the heads of several Tibetan Orders including H.H. the Dalai Lama, H.H. Sakya Trizen and H.H. the XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa. On their very first meeting at Rumteck monastery, H.H. Gyalwa Karmapa recognized the Venerable Ananda Bodhi as a tulku and enlightened meditation master. On a return visit in 1971 he was subsequently given full ordination in the Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism with the name Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche. Later that year in Green River, Ontario — on instructions from H.H. XVIth Karmapa — he was formally enthroned by the Venerable Karma Thinley Rinpoche. Since then most of his students addressed him as Namgyal Rinpoche, which means “Precious Victorious One”.

Namgyal Rinpoche invited both H.H. XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa and H.H. Sakya Trizen to visit Canada, resulting in their first historic visits to the West in 1974. He received all the major lineage transmissions from these and other great masters of all schools including H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Chogye Rinpoche and Kalu Rinpoche. Several years later Khen Rinpoche, of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, visited him at his residence in Kinmount, Ontario, and recognized him as an emanation of White Manjusri.

Until his passing in 2003, Namgyal Rinpoche continued to travel extensively throughout the world giving teaching along the way, as well as at centres established by his students in North and Central America, Great Britain, Europe, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. His dedication to the liberation of all that live, along with his interest in all formations (including this planet and its flora and fauna), was as tireless as it was vast. A master of Mahamudra, he was unique in his ability to encompass and bridge the traditional methods of Buddhism and Western forms of awakening while transmitting the path of enlightenment in universal terms according to beings’ interests and proclivities.

Karma Chime Wongmo